Our life journey is inevitably filled with the unknown, the unexpected, and the uncontrollable, but how we face that journey is totally shaped by each individual. Attitude is everything; it molds and defines the intricate contours and substance of our existence.
We’ve all heard the cliche’s: “Life is what you make it.” “Shite or get off the pot.” “Think before you speak.” And, one I frequently hear myself saying, “Get over yourself.” Even the explanation for cliche’s has become a cliche: “It’s a cliche for a reason.”
The truth in each cliche, unfortunately, is often overlooked. It somehow gets watered down, its meaning lost in the flow. But one thing is certain: Most of these “life lesson” cliches all revolve around attitude.
What exactly is “attitude”?
Attitude is the way we think and feel. Attitude is evident in our body language, our facial expressions, and our choice of language. It provokes us to act in a way consistent with it — to make choices for ourselves that quite literally change the course of our existence. Attitude can propel us to great achievements, or it can crush and destroy us under its enormous power.
In a word, attitude is everything.
If attitude could be separated into two components, we would call those individual parts Positive and Negative. It’s the “glass half full / half empty” issue. We either have a positive attitude, or we don’t. And when we don’t, there is only one alternative: the negative.
Negative vs. Positive
Folks with a positive attitude are always winners. They know happiness. They may struggle, they may fail, and they may face unbearable obstacles, but their positive attitude will always guide them to the “win.” Always.
On the other hand, those who are encumbered by a negative attitude always lose. They seldom experience genuine happiness. They may be famously wealthy and control empires, but they still “lose.” Always.
Inherent in this perspective of winning and losing is a presumed definition of happiness and success that not everyone shares. Even so, there is typically not much variation in those definitions by the members of each category. In other words, “winners” will typically define happiness and success in a similar manner, and “whiners” will also usually have a like definition.
The definitional differences are most prevalent not within the groups, but between them. A winner defines happiness and success, generally, with a focus on the internal: emotional contentment, a quality character, and well-earned pride. A whiner, on the other hand, tends to define happiness and success with a focus on the external: material collections, conquests, and reputation.
For the positive thinking Winner, happiness and success are both dependent upon the individual himself. For the negative thinking Whiner, these things are dependent upon what other people do, think, or say.
Whiner vs. Winner
Let’s take a look at 3 broad areas in which the Whiner and the Winner differ and discuss a few specific examples of how these contrasting attitudes impact the journey of life:
What is the individual’s general focus when it comes to life? Are they stuck in the past, or living in the present with an eye toward the future?
WHINERS — Generally, a whiner focuses on what has or has not happened in the past. Her mind is consumed with yesterday. It’s seldom about tomorrow. The problems, conflicts, disappointments, and struggles of her past are forever a part of her present because she constantly provides the energy to keep them alive, determined to hold on and not let them die.
WINNERS — A winner tends to focus on the present and future. The past is relevant only in terms of the memories made and the lessons learned. Living in the present, a winner sees, hears, and absorbs his surroundings and current circumstances, and makes use of them to his advantage. It could be as simple as enjoying a song on the radio, or as complex as formulating an idea today that will change the world tomorrow. And “tomorrow” is always on the winner’s mind in one way or another. He dreams. He plans. He hopes. He contemplates the future with an eager enthusiasm.
It’s easy to identify the Whiner and the Winner simply by their respective focus. When faced with similar scenarios, the Whiner can’t see beyond the past; the Winner focuses on today and on the future:
After a break up:
[Whiner] Can you believe he did that to me? After all I did for him? I can’t believe he left me in this position! What am I supposed to do now?
[Winner] I’m sad, sure. And, yes, it hurts. But, it’s time to move forward. I know where I failed, and I’ve learned from it. Frankly, it gives me an opportunity that I never dreamed I would have. My options are limitless at this point, and that’s exciting.
Passed Over for Promotion:
[Whiner] I totally reorganized the department when I first started here, and you’d think I’d get some appreciation for it. But, no! After giving them 5 years of my life, someone else gets the promotion? She hasn’t even been here 2 years yet! There’s no way she’s better than me. She probably bought the job, you know, with ‘special favors.’ What else do you think she does during all those late nights at the office when the rest of us have gone home?
[Winner] She definitely deserved that promotion. She worked hard for it. I did, too, but obviously I fell short somehow. It’s time for me to re-evaluate my approach and see where I can improve. And the first thing I’m going to do is buy her lunch to congratulate her, and to pick her brain about what I can do to make a bigger difference. In the mean time, this gives me the opportunity to continue working with my team on the ABC project and see it through to completion. I’m happy about that, and my team will be, too.
When conflict inevitably arises, how does an individual deal with it? Does she blame others, or take responsibility for her actions? Will she cast stones, or leave no stone unturned to find a resolution?
WHINERS — When conflict arises, the Whiner casts blame. He will immediately begin an intricate analysis of all of the players around him, picking apart each and every person or thing that was somehow involved in the situation. He is an impugner. If there is fault to be found, he will find it. And when a bad situation is simply a matter of those things beyond anyone’s control, he will create fault and blame. For the Whiner, it’s not about fixing a problem (which involves the present and the future), but is rather about condemnation.
WINNERS — To the contrary, the Winner accepts responsibility for his part and holds himself accountable, regardless of how someone or something else may or may not have contributed to the problem. When conflict of some sort is on the table, the Winner will, like the Whiner, engage in analytical thinking, but the Winner’s critical analysis is self-focused. He asks himself, “What did I do wrong here? How should I handle this differently if it happens again?” And, more importantly, he thinks, “What do I need to do to fix this?” His focus is on resolution, not reproach.
The application of these different approaches has a direct impact on others. The Whiner’s approach causes a feeling of ill-will. It lowers morale. It can even result in substantial damage to someone’s reputation or standing in her community. The stones in the roadway become weapons as he casts them at others. And, what was once a pile of rocks — a simple road-block we each encounter from time to time — is quickly turned into a mountain of new problems.
The Winner, on the other hand, doesn’t waste time casting stones and has no interest in creating a mountain of new problems. Instead, he stands back and, after recognizing the cause of the obstruction in life, he determines the best way to handle that road block. One by one, he picks up each rock and disposes of it, carefully dispersing the problem in a manner which hurts no one. He resolves the road-block, and then continues on his journey.
Regardless of the scenario, it’s easy to see the attitude difference between the Whiner and the Winner when it comes to blame, responsibility, and resolution:
An employment situation:
[Whiner] How am I supposed to provide my data on time when no one returns my phone calls? The lumber division should know I’m waiting for their estimate, and still nothing’s on my desk. So, don’t blame me when this isn’t ready by the time the client arrives. And speaking of the client — How insane is it that they think we can pull this off in less than a week? That’s crazy. What more can I do? It’s not my fault.
[Winner] It looks like we might not have this ready on time, and we’re at risk of losing a good client. I still haven’t finished getting all the data from our lumber division. I probably need to push a bit harder; they’re swamped right now, but I should have made sure they understood the importance of the deadline. Let’s call the client and see if an extension will work. And next time, I’ll make sure to communicate better with each division, making sure we’re in sync.
Dealing with conflict in a relationship:
[Whiner] Don’t be mad at me over this. You never said that I shouldn’t tell anyone. If you didn’t want me to say something, you needed to make it clear. How was I to know that you’d be upset? I’m not a mind reader.
[Winner] I’m so sorry. I should have known that by confiding in me, you expected the information to remain confidential. I truly am sorry. I hope you’ll forgive me, and that you can trust that this is a mistake I won’t ever repeat.
Does an individual seem to seek out the support of others? Does she need frequent validation? Or, is the individual more likely to provide support for others, more often on the giving side than the receiving end?
WHINERS –When it comes to support, Whiners are constantly on the receiving end. They are dependent upon the validation others provide when it comes to their attitude. As if their thoughts, opinions, and ideas have no value otherwise, a Whiner seeks out supportive comments that say, in one way or another, “Yeah, you’re right,” or “Ah, poor baby; I understand.”
It’s bad enough that Whiner’s constantly complain, but it’s even worse that others are subjected to the whining in the Whiner’s search for validation. The negative vibe cast by the Whiner easily repels others, and is therefore counter productive to the Whiner’s goal of obtaining validation.
WINNERS — On the other hand, the Winner is more apt to offer validation and support than she is to ask for it. Granted, everyone needs validation to some extent, but for a Winner, there is no dependency. A Winner can and does provide her own validation when needed, and often finds validation in her support of others.
Winners suffer, struggle, and feel pain, too, but it is something with which they are able to deal on their own. They know that complaining doesn’t solve anything. Winners so seldom complain that on the rare occasion that they do utter something that sounds like a complaint, people take immediate notice. And one thing they notice is how positive the Winner is about an otherwise negative situation.
Dealing with a slow cashier:
[Whiner / to customer behind her in line] Oh-my-gawd. Can you believe how slow this guy is? Like we don’t have anything better to do with our day than wait for him to find a damn price-tag? I am tempted to just walk out without even buying the shirt. Why would anyone hire this guy anyway? You know what I mean? It’s not like we’re better or anything, but, seriously, doesn’t it just irk you that we have to wait this long for him to go find a simple price tag?!
[Winner] Oh, that poor cashier! He must be so frustrated. Maybe I can run back and grab one for him that has a price tag. Will you save my place in line?
In response to “Are you okay? You always look so tired.” :
[Whiner] Oh, man, I am! It’s just sooo hard. You have no idea. It’s been a month since I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and I just can’t take it. And can you believe that my family complains when I throw a frozen pizza in the oven? I mean, don’t you think they’re being selfish? I’m just too tired and in too much pain. I can’t stand it. And nobody seems to understand.
[Winner] Do I? It’s been a bit of a struggle but I’m doing pretty well, actually. It’s only been a month since I was diagnosed, but I’m learning to not let it define me. It’s a matter of adapting and overcoming, figuring out ways to be more efficient so my energy lasts longer. I feel bad for my family; they’re not used to frozen pizzas so often. We’ll get it figured out. It’s just a bump in the road.
The Good News about Whiners
If YOU recognize yourself in the examples of Whiner’s, you may very seriously want to consider making that change in the coming year. Here are a few suggestions to help you make the transition:
- Think before you speak.
- Practice positive patterns of speech.
- Engage in more internal and less external analysis.
- Emulate the behavior of someone you know who is unequivocally “positive.”
- Record yourself. Play it back. Look and listen — with an open mind.
- Volunteer. Give away your time and talent to someone in need.
- Listen to music with positive lyrics. Trash the Eminem CD’s until you’re able to listen to them without being negatively influenced.
- Quietly study the behaviors of others. Don’t judge: Just study.
- Surround yourself with positive, happy people. And learn to read their facial expressions when you speak. They will silently clue you in to whether you are whining, or winning.
- Avoid negative people, places, and things. Two negatives do not make a positive in the game of life.
- Let go. Move on. Don’t dwell. Keep yourself moving forward. Yesterday is history.
- Get over yourself. Get into life and all it has to offer!
If you have a serious problem with your attitude and have a genuine desire to make a change in the coming year, feel free to send me a private email. I can help. And for those of you with additional suggestions or a comment to share, please participate below. It’s free and easy; no registration is required.
May you experience the beauty of positive peace in your life journey!
~Lynda C. Watts