We’ve all heard the numbers: Consumer confidence is down, retail sales are dismal, unemployment is up. The housing market is iffy. And for many of us, the markets we serve are down as well. There is an important relationship to note here. Confidence – an attitude – is down, so sales are down. When confidence is up, sales follow. The principle at work here is this: Our actions follow our attitudes. The relationship between actions and attitudes is so close, that the two go hand-in-hand, and our actions can be seen as outward expressions of our attitudes.
For example, let’s say that you got up this morning in a great mood. You bound down the steps, give your spouse a passionate kiss, announce to the kids that it is going to be a great day, and with effervescent energy dance out the door to the car. It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that your attitude – your great mood – influenced your actions.
While it is easy to connect the two in this example, the principle that it unveils – that our attitudes influence our actions – extends to every aspect of our lives, and particularly to our jobs, in even the slightest and most mundane portions of our work lives. I was in a particularly pensive mood yesterday afternoon, for example, and, as a result, chose not to answer a couple of emails, but, instead, left them for this morning. An action as simple and mundane as responding to an email was dependent on my attitude.
And that leads us to one of the greatest principles of self-improvement: You can choose your attitudes. You can choose to be happy; you can choose to be sad; you can choose to be confident, and you can choose to be cautious. Don’t believe it? Take this little test. Tomorrow, as you are eating breakfast, tell yourself these things over and over. “It’s going to be a rotten day. Everybody’s afraid to buy. Most people probably won’t even see me. I’ll probably be laid off soon anyway.” Now, having repeated that litany of dreariness to yourself, pay attention to what kind of attitude you exhibit during the course of the day. You are probably not going to be effervescent and overwhelmingly positive. Instead, you’ll be depressed and discouraged, and you’ll spread it to the people around you like the plague.
You could, on the other hand, dramatically change your attitude for the day if you were to get up in the morning and repeat this kind of dialogue with yourself: “It’s going to be a good day. I can’t wait to see what good things are going to happen. I know there are some good things I can do for my customers. I’m going to make a difference in their businesses and their lives.” The result of that train of thought is confidence and positive energy.
Look at the mechanics in these simple illustrations. You started out thinking a thought, then expressed that thought, and that action created an attitude, which in turn influenced future actions. In other words, your thoughts eventually and directly influenced your actions. And that brings us to the key to self improvement – you can choose your thoughts!
You can choose what you think. And when you do that, it influences everything up the chain – your attitudes, your actions, and your results. It starts with how you think.
So, here we are, in the middle of a major economic downturn, with all sorts of negative attitudes populating the menu of the day. Choose to be discouraged about this or depressed about that. It seems as if everyone we meet has a worry, anxiety or tough luck story to tell.
What do we do? We don’t look outside of ourselves – at the federal government, for example, to borrow and spend our way to better times. Instead, we look inward, accept responsibility for our own actions, attitudes and thoughts, and start to change who we are, by changing what we think. We change ourselves, one thought at a time, to influence our attitudes, to shape our actions, to produce better results.
I believe we have a responsibility to do so. We are responsible, not only to ourselves and our families, but to the companies who employ us, the industries we serve, and the communities in which we live.
Attitudes are contagious. You know that if you spend a lot of time with negative people, you begin to see what’s wrong with everything and everyone. Hang around a lot with depressed people, and you become depressed. On the other hand, if you are with energetic and optimistic people, it rubs off on you as well.
Here’s the point. You can choose to be part of the problem, or part of the solution. You can choose to be influenced by the negativity around you. You can reflect that cautiousness and lack of confidence. You can contribute to that downward spiral in attitude. In that case, you have chosen to be part of the problem.
On the other hand, you can choose to be part of the solution. You can choose an attitude of confidence and optimism. By so doing, you influence those around you, and you do your small part to contribute to the solution. Of course, you are not single-handedly going to change world attitudes. But you can positively influence those in your spheres of contact.
You are a professional. You contact more individuals in the course of the day than most people do. Your customers, prospects, colleagues; your friends and family; the people you work with and supervise; even your managers – all of them can be influenced via your attitude. Because of your position of great potential influence, you have a greater responsibility to be proactive, and to lead others.
It’s time for you to step up to the plate and to become a positive leader for those around you.
Here are a couple guidelines to help you….
1. Start with yourself. Make sure you are nurturing your own personal attitude. Now is the time to revisit and revitalize your faith in God. Hang around positive people. Make a point to read uplifting books and articles. Get some additional training, expose yourself to positive audiotapes. Create a set of strong affirmations and read them to yourself at the start of every day.
2. Assume that you are the leader for which people around you are looking. Be sensitive to opportunities that come up in the course of the day to influence the attitudes of those around you. If you are a manager, do something positive for your people. Invest in them someway. Enlist their input and involvement in some new initiative. Don’t just talk the talk; show your attitude by your actions. Walk the walk.
It is time that we, American salespeople and businesspeople, step up. It is the combination of applied energy, knowledge and wisdom of American businesspeople that has brought freedom of choice, dignity and financial opportunity to our own people, and has been a model for billions of people around the world.
American businesspeople need to step up and accept our leadership opportunities. It’s time for each of us to contribute to the solution, not to be part of the problem.