How To Choose A Positive Attitude When You Feel Negative

I just returned from a great conference called Storyline. The whole conference was dedicated to learning how to live a better, more significant story with your life. The conference took place in downtown Portland. What an incredibly fun city.

On my way home from the conference, my truck broke down about an hour from home. I ended up having to call a tow truck, spend the night in a motel, and spend about $400 for a new alternator in the morning to continue my journey home. Not exactly what I had in mind.

Life is like that. No matter how much you plan and get intentional with your life, there are going to be unforeseen circumstances that interrupt your strategy – even if it’s a good strategy. In those moments, when your options are limited, you still get to make some choices. In my momentary dilemma with the truck, one of the first choices I got to make had to do with my attitude.

Your attitude is going to effect your story. It will shape your perspective. It can turn an accident into an adventure. It is a choice you and I make…every…single…day.

Here’s the thing: Those who suffer from negative thinking may feel trapped by it.  But because it’s a choice, there’s a way out of it. I had all kinds of reason to start giving in to the stinking thinking that came along when my truck broke down. But I chose to keep my attitude positive, even when the circumstances were negative.

Here are some ways I’ve learned to choose a positive attitude when you start to feel negative.

Identify those moments when you have chosen a negative attitude.

When you are honest about having a negative attitude, then you can begin to figure out what may be causing it. You can see what types of behaviors and reactions go along with it. Try to think about any underlying assumptions or unmet expectations that you may be responding negatively to. In my situation, I had the expectation of getting home. That wasn’t going to happen.

Imagine how a positive attitude would respond in the same situation.

One of the beauties about our attitude being a choice is that we can imagine what different responses would look like. William Makepeace Thackery said, “The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.” How would the situation look different if you chose a positive attitude instead of a negative one? How would people respond to you? What kinds of things would you say, do, think that would be different?  Write these things down because you’ll need them for the next step.

Put your positive attitude ideas into action.

The next time the same or similar situation presents itself, respond with a positive attitude – even if you don’t feel like it. This is a key point here. Too many times we allow our emotions to dictate our attitude instead of making our attitude dictate our emotions. What I mean is, just because you don’t feel like doing something or acting a certain way doesn’t validate your emotion. Norman Vincent Peale noted, “Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. The way you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You are overcome by the fact because you think you are.” If you know the right way to respond (positively in this case), then you must do that despite what your emotions are telling you. The wonderful thing is that when we do this, our actions affect our emotions. Pretty soon, we feel better about a situation because we know that we responded in the right way. Our chosen actions and attitudes are able to change our emotions.

Find a person to help you develop a positive attitude.

I think attitude is contagious. When you look for someone to help you, the first criteria I would look for is someone who already has a positive attitude. One thing for certain is that attitudes are contagious. Get around someone with a positive attitude and you start feeling better yourself. If you choose someone who struggles just like you with negative thinking, your times together could easily turn into gripe-fests.

Attitude isn’t based on talent or strengths or personal skills. It’s a choice each individual person gets to make. This means there’s no excuse for choosing a negative attitude. There are certain areas of our lives that we can only improve in marginally if we’re not naturally gifted in them.  The attitude is not one of those areas.

Someday in the near future, I’m going to tell the story about getting stuck in Ontario, Oregon for the night because my truck broke down. I think it will be a much better story to tell because I kept a pretty positive attitude throughout the whole ordeal.

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