Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Attitude Adjustment: Strong Mental Habits to Live By

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about attitude and how it impacts success. Many times, our personalities and individual histories play a big role in determining how we view the world and the work we do. But I’m also a firm believer that we each have control over how we think about and carry out our work.

We choose our attitudes, the way we approach and react to situations. And though we might not necessarily be able to change our default settings with the snap of our fingers, we can most certainly train ourselves to question those defaults in the interest of personal growth and improvement.

In the past several years, I’ve gone from being a college student to an intern to an educator to a manager at a small tech company. I’ve had the chance to see a lot of different attitudes in action and evaluate my own attitude as well. Here are some of the most pointed things I have learned along the way about how we can improve our attitudes, stop harmful mental habits, and give ourselves the best chance of success:

Stop trying to please everyone. You cannot please everyone – so don’t beat yourself up when you aren’t able to do so.

Don’t let others have power over your mental state. Instead of blaming your boss for your “making you feel [insert negative emotion here],” recognize that you are in control of your emotions. You always have a choice in how to respond. Don’t give anyone else that power.

Don’t dwell. Don’t start work on a new project with a bad attitude because the last time didn’t go so well. Don’t hold a grudge against a coworker. Do what you can to influence the outcome of situations, but don’t dwell on things you can’t change.

Learn to compromise. Have an open mind. Assert your opinions and ideas, but recognize when you need to do something someone else’s way. Maybe they’re your boss or your simply outnumbered. Shrug, accept it, and move on. Leave the bitterness at home.

Be humble and forgiving. Hold yourself and others accountable, but don’t create a toxic culture of guilt or fear when something goes wrong. Because it will go wrong, for you or someone else. Set high standards, but never put yourself on a pedestal.

Be patient. Patiently persist, refuse to give into learned helplessness, and do tasks that are hard for you just so you can get better at them. You don’t have to smile while you do it, but don’t be angry at the world, either. Growing is a painful, slow process.

Stop groaning. Of course work isn’t always fun. In fact, it’s frequently not fun, and most of us would rather be doing something else. But please don’t torture yourself and others by constantly talking about how bored or unhappy or sick of work you are. That leads into…

Find a way to stay positive (or at least neutral). If you fail, think about what you learned. If a client is stressing the team out, commend each other on how you came together to solve a problem. Look for the positive in everything, not the negative.

Face the situation. Swallow your panic, your fear, your instinct to avoid confrontation. Fix issues as soon as possible—before they get worse. Force yourself to be objective and open-minded during confrontations, not ruled by your emotions.

Question entitlement. Listen to me carefully: You. Are. Not. Entitled. To anything. In the professional, adult world, we all must earn our keep. Sometimes that means giving things time to grow, or making less pay than you want so that you can gain experience, prove yourself, and learn how to advance your career. Absolutely try to find a workplace that appreciates and values you, but don’t ruin your chance to grow because you are too busy feeling entitled to something better. If you’re very lucky, you’ll get your dream job right away and that will be that… but if you’re like the rest of us, you’ll need to take some baby steps in between.