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I was recently participating in a family gathering. It wasn’t that big, maybe 15 people, but it was big enough for groups of people to be formed and have different conversations.
As I was walking past one of the groups, I overheard someone saying: “well there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s her character, and people can’t change.”
The fact the people believe that character and attitude is something that you are born with and can’t be changed always strikes me as surprising.
I hear this from people who by all social standards are considered educated and intelligent, yet with all that intelligence and university degrees, some very basic truths are missed.
Everything is either growing or disintegrating
Everything in our world is constantly changing. Everything is either growing or disintegrating, and this includes our bodies and minds as well.
From the day we are born until the day we leave our current body on this planet we are continuously changing.
A person’s character or attitude is continuously changing based on the thoughts he thinks.
The reason many people think that they (or other people) can’t change is because of habits. A habit is an action that requires no conscious effort.
This action is so ingrained in character that we don’t give it any thought of whether to perform or not perform it. For example, did you have to decide whether you would put your clothes on today? I bet you didn’t.
Since habits help us to manage the data load of our everyday lives, we are usually inclined to make more and more habits to help us along the way. We become so accustomed to our habits that we think they control our lives and our actions.
Because of that, most people think that they can’t change. They honestly believe that they wouldn’t be able to change their lives because their habits are stronger than they are.
The truth is that our habits are as strong as the power we give them over us.
In fact changing our habits (and thus our attitude) is something that requires a big enough reward to do so. If the reward for changing our behavior is big enough for us, then it would have more power than the habit we grew accustomed to.
If I tell you that you would get $1,000,000 if you start waking up at 5 am each day for two months, would you do it? Most people would gladly take me up on that offer, and set the alarm clock for 5 am (or even earlier) with pleasure.
How To Change Your Attitude
So if it’s possible to change our attitude, how do we go about doing this?
Here are three ways that will help you change yourself and your attitude towards the environment
1. Construct a New Habit
If habits are so ingrained in our behavior, it is just logical that changing them will change our attitude.
Choose a habit you wish to change, for example arriving late for meetings, and start working on it, in this case, plan to be there 20 minutes before the meeting, and then simply do it.
Now you might think that a new habit takes 21-30 days to form. This is probably not true and originates in a mix of study and folklore. The more recent studies show that habits take anywhere between 18-254 days to become fully automated.
I’m not saying this to discourage you from trying out a new habit, but rather to let you know that changing habits takes time, so if you slip up on adopting your new habit at first it’s completely okay, and you can stop beating yourself up for it.
Just stick to your decision and keep moving forward. Step by step you would feel the change coming, and you would start arriving at meetings on time.
2. Think Different Thoughts
This is actually easier than you think. Our mind is like a transmission station, and our thoughts are vibrations in certain frequencies we send out. Whatever we send out, the universe returns to us.
Just think of a radio station that is tuned to a certain station. Each station is a different frequency, and in order to receive a different broadcast, you simply change the frequency the radio is tuned to.
This is the same with our thoughts. Once we change the frequency of our thoughts, we would receive different results. So negative thoughts (low-frequency thoughts) will bring negative results, and high-frequency positive thoughts will bring positive results.
So we are interested in changing our frequency of thought to change ourselves and our attitude. How do we do that?
One simple exercise is the following. Choose any object. It could be a person or an inanimate object that has some relation to yourself.
For 5 minutes think about all the good things that this person/object brings into your life. How does that person help you? How does that object make your life easier or more enjoyable? Then focus on acknowledging that good and really give thanks for the fact that the person/object is in your life.
This exercise is great since it immediately switches the thinking you are currently on into a more positive one. It is actually possible to feel the change of mind that takes place when we start thinking about the good in our life and give thanks for it.
Practice this exercise every time you feel that you start acting in a way you don’t like, or start going on a negative mind path, and in a relatively short period of time, you would see that your behavior changes.
3. Adopt a New Perspective
The way we look at things affects our thoughts about them. Everything just is. We are the one that gives meaning to it based on the way we perceive it.
Two different people will look at the same thing and would act differently about it. So changing our behavior towards something can be achieved by simply changing the way we perceive it.
For example, let’s say you don’t manage to do everything you planned to do. You want to do more stuff, but things constantly get in your way.
One perspective could be that you just don’t have enough time on the day to do everything. This usually leads to hurry and stress.
However simply shifting the perspective could mean that we could look at the situation as if you are simply prolific and are engaged in many things. You are simply a very productive person in many different areas. Feels better, doesn’t it?
One exercise that could help you shift your perspective is write down whatever bothers you on a piece paper. Then sit a table where you can clearly see the paper spread on the table.
Choose 2-3 people which you respect and think highly of. They could be someone you personally know or even historical figures like Franklin or Edison (my favorite is Churchill).
Then seat at the table with the paper in front and just say out loud what bothers you about the subject which is written on the paper.
After you get everything out, move to a different place at the table and just think what one of the people you chose would have thought about the situation. What would he have to say? Would it be positive or negative? How would he look at this?
Do that a few times and each time switch chairs and people, so you could have a range of perspectives to choose from.
Then simply choose the perspective that fits you the most. Choosing a different way to look at something, will bring with it different thoughts and different actions towards it.
Our attitude towards things is comprised of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. These three are inseparable in determining who we are and how we act.
Just as if you have a cake, which has many ingredients that construct the whole, so does our attitude is constructed of these three important parts.
The good thing to know is that we can change the minute we decide to. Our attitude is not set in stone, and it can change at every point in life.
It only requires us to decide we want to change, commit to our decision and keep trying to change until we see the shift happening. After that, if we keep repeating the new pattern of thought it becomes our new nature.
So next time you’re at an event, and you hear someone says that people can’t change, go ahead and tell them how you managed to do so.
Over to you –
Have you ever tried to change your attitude? How did you go about doing it? Share in the comments.