I make my living by flying across the country and speaking to all types of groups and all kinds of people. So I spend a lot of time on airplanes. While I’m on the plane, I seldom take the time to talk to my seatmate. But I’ll never forget this one man that sat next to me. He looked terribly down, so I greeted him with a cheerful, “How are you?”
He said, “Oh, okay, I guess.” Then he asked me, “What do you do for a living?” I said I was a professional speaker, but some people might call me a motivational speaker. I write books and give presentations on how to be a peak performer. Then, right out of nowhere, he asked, “Tell me something. Why does everything go wrong for me?” Well I certainly didn’t know. I had never met the man before. So I replied, “Beats me. But if you’ll talk for a few minutes, perhaps we can figure it out.”
For the next thirty minutes he went on and on about all his difficulties. And he repeated the same negative thoughts over and over. Then all of a sudden he exclaimed, “Hold it! Hold it! I know why everything goes wrong for me. It just came to me. Everything goes wrong for me because I’m wrong. I think wrong, speak wrong, and act wrong. I’m just too negative all the time.” He was right. He had gotten right to the crux of the matter. It was his attitude that was determining his altitude. The same is true for you.
Your attitude is one of the most important, most powerful factors in your life. In fact, just about everything you achieve or don’t achieve can be traced back to your attitude. Quite simply, good attitudes bring good results, and bad attitudes bring bad results. It is your attitude, more than your aptitude, that will determine your altitude. Of course, motivational authors knew that years ago. James Allen wrote, “Man’s rise or fall, success or failure, happiness or unhappiness depends on his attitude.” And Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, said, “Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.”
Of course, a lot of people think it’s “cool” to joke about one’s attitude. Comedian W. C. Fields said, “Start every day with a smile and get it over with.” One negative person even carried a card in his wallet that read, “In case of accident, I’m not surprised.”
Comedian George Burns was asked, “Can you do everything at 98 you could do at age 18?” He said, “Of course I can do everything at 98 I did at 18 –which tells you how pathetic my life was at 18.” Sure, it can be fun to joke about a negative attitude, but in reality, nothing could be more serious. Benjamin Franklin knew that. He said, “Most people die at age 18, but we don’t bury them until they’re 65.” .
It’s like a game I play with some of my audience members. I will ask someone, “How long have you been alive?” The audience member will say something like “43 years.” I’ll say, “No. That’s how long your heart has been beating. How long have you been
ALIVE? How long have you been on fire?” About that time the audience “gets” it. They realize it’s their attitude that’s pushing them forward or holding them back.
The best research comes from Dr. Martin Seligman. In his monumental, ground-breaking book, Learned Optimism, Dr. Seligman discovered that attitude was a better predictor of success than IQ, grade point average, or almost any other factor. He found that negative people get sick more often, are divorced more frequently, and raise kids who get in more trouble. He even found out that negative people make less money.
In one long-term study of 1500 people, group A or 83% of the people took their particular jobs because they believed they could make lots of money. Only 17% of them–or group B– took their particular jobs because they happened to have a positive attitude towards those jobs. Twenty years later, the two groups had produced 101 millionaires. The amazing thing is, only one of those millionaires came from group A, but 100 of them came from group B. Now that’s significant.
Even more amazing, over 70% of these millionaires never went to college. And over 70% of those who became CEO’s graduated in the bottom half of their class. Seligman concluded that it was their attitude, more than their aptitude, that determined their altitude. In no uncertain terms, he says positive thinking is “the” hallmark of successful people.
I find the same thing to be true in all the audiences and all the organizations where I speak and consult. I’ll ask my audiences to give me the words they would use to characterize a winner, and I’ll write down the first ten words they give me. What do you think they say? Over the years, I’ve found their answers to be quite consistent. They list: attitude, enthusiasm, determination, motivation, confidence, optimism, dedication, happiness, balance, and patience. Very interesting. None of these qualities has anything to do with physical or mental abilities. They all relate to attitude in some way or other.
The Medical Evidence
You’re obviously interested in physical fitness. You want to build the best body possible. Well your attitude has a lot to do with your physical success as well. Dr. Thomas Hackett, a Harvard psychiatrist, found that sick people who minimize the seriousness of their condition by emphasizing their optimism, hope, trust, and humor have higher survival rates than chronic worriers. He says, “Sometimes the best medicine is in your head…A positive attitude has a life-saving effect.”
Leo Goldberger, professor of psychiatry at New York University says, “We used to think of mind and body as two separate realms when, in effect, they are part and parcel of the same whole.” And Grace Murphy of the International Center for the Disabled in New York City writes, “In order to have a healthy body, you must have a healthy mind.”
One of the first people to popularize the mind-body connection was Norman Cousins. As a respected journalist and professor, he wrote and spoke on the topic many times. One study was particularly interesting, a study done on 40 patients who recovered
from “irreversible” illnesses. When they were told they didn’t have much of a chance, they panicked. That was to be expected. But at some point they decided to reject the notion of inevitable death. They decided to live. They would take advantage of the best that medical science had to offer, but they would also get actively involved in their own recovery. They would do whatever it took to regain their health.
According to Norman Cousins, it was that decision, that attitude that made the difference. Attitudes have a definite biochemical effect on the body. An attitude of defeat or panic constricts the blood vessels and has a debilitating effect on the entire endocrine system. By contrast, an attitude of confidence and determination activates benevolent, therapeutic secretions in the brain. Apparently a positive attitude can help in the prevention of disease, and a positive attitude can help in the recovery from disease. Dr. James Strain, the director of Behavioral Medicine and Consultation Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City found that to be true.
Dr. Strain compared pessimistic and optimistic men who had heart attacks. In the first group of 25, 21 of the 25 pessimistic men died within 8 years of their heart attack. But only 6 of the 25 optimistic men died during that time. Of course, I’m not a physician. I’m not that kind of doctor. But I have the privilege of working with some of the finest doctors in the world when I do programs for the Mayo Clinic. My programs focus more on the mind, and they focus more on the body, but we see the definite connection between the two.
More often than not, your attitude is the number one determining factor in your success. With the right attitude, you’re almost certain to achieve your goals. And the good news is, your attitude is self-chosen. You control whether or not you will be a winner in life, regardless of your natural ability.
So you can be a winner. You can have a stronger body. You can have better relationships. You can make more money—if you have the right attitude. In future articles, I’ll tell you how to build a winning, positive attitude. I’ll show you how to do it, step by step. After all, it is your responsibility to change your attitude if it’s not as positive or as powerful as it needs to be. No one “gave” you your attitude, and no one can “take” it away—except you. It’s your responsibility.
I’m sure you want to be a “winner.” You don’t want to be a “loser.” And the difference between the two is huge.
The winner is always a part of the answer.
The loser is always a part of the problem.
The winner always has a program.
The loser always has an excuse.
The winner says, “Let me help you.”
The loser says, “That’s not my job.”
The winner sees an answer for every problem.
The loser sees a problem in every answer.
The winner sees a green near every sand trap.
The loser sees a sand trap near every green.
The winner says, “It may be difficult, but it’s possible.”
The loser says, “It may be possible, but it’s too difficult.”
I can’t think of a bigger winner than Abraham Lincoln. And I can’t think of anyone who had more pressures in life or in his career than Abraham Lincoln. Whether it was his repeated losses in various elections, his difficult marriage, or the nation falling apart, he lived and led with an indomitable positive attitude. He simply chose to be that way. As Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Starting today, make up your mind to be a Lincoln!
About the Author
Dr. Alan Zimmerman‘s formal education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Political Science, a Master’s degree is in Speech-Communication and Sociology, and a Doctorate in the field of Interpersonal Communication and Psychology.
After 15 years of work as a university professor, he founded the Zimmerman Communi-Care Network, Inc. in 1985, a speaking, training, and consulting company with offices in two states and employees in two countries. As the president of that company, Dr. Zimmerman has delivered hundreds of presentations across the world and maintains a 92% repeat and referral business.
For over 20 years, best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman has helped more than a million people … just like you … transform their lives. For more free tips, guaranteed to increase your performance, you can get a FREE subscription to Dr. Zimmerman’s “Tuesday Tip” Internet newsletter by going to: http://www.DrZimmerman.com
Read it and learn:
• 3 secrets for incredible happiness and awesome success on and off the job
• Exactly what it takes to live a life filled with purpose and passion
• The simple process for achieving every personal and professional goal you’ve ever had!
• The most important question you’ll ever ask yourself
• How to keep on going when you don’t feel like it
• A powerful technique for staying on purpose each and every day
• Eight ways to cultivate the type of attitude that leads to success
• How to live and work with character and integrity so when you speak others listen
• A step-by-step process of continuing education so you never get outdated
• Two communication processes to get the full and willing cooperation of others
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