IT ALL BEGINS WITH ATTITUDE
from the seminar
BREAKING THROUGH LIFE’S BOUNDARIES
Seminar Leader * Author * Keynote Speaker
(C) Copyright, 1989, Pat Spithill
P.O. Box 505 * Hutchins, Texas 75141
This material may not be reproduced or altered without written
permission of the author and copyright holder.
The Importance of Attitude
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “attitude” as “a mental
position or feeling with regard to an object.” The mental positions or
feelings are our thoughts, beliefs and opinions. The object is life. In other
words, attitudes encompass all of the thoughts, beliefs and opinions which
people have about their lives.
Over 2500 years ago, Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of what
we have thought; it is founded on our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with
pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.”
Buddha also said, “It is a man’s own mind – not his enemy or his foe that lures
him into evil ways.” A person’s attitude, what Buddha was speaking of, is the
very foundation on which his or her life’s experience has been, is, and will be
built. Every part of reality is the result of a person’s attitudes. In simple
terms, our attitudes reflect what we expect from life. This shouldn’t be
confused with what we want, dream or hope for. No one wants to be unhappy,
lead a boring life or look back over the years with remorse and regret. Yet,
so often rather than expecting the best life has to offer, people expect much
the opposite. They expect problems and get problems; expect disappointments
and are disappointed; expect to fail and then, rather than experience the
desired success, they fail.
If attitudes are the mental expectations about jobs, relationships,
financial status and so on, then these very powerful thoughts must be the
elements which set the course for our lives and destiny. It isn’t life’s
circumstances which create the attitudes; it’s the attitudes which create
life’s circumstances. When people change their expectations and attitudes,
then their lives must surely change as well.
I know a gentleman who, in the late 1960’s, worked as a repossessor of
logging trucks. If you will, create a mental image of a person who walks up to
burly truck drivers and says, “I have to either have a payment or the keys,
whichever you want.” I would picture someone about 6’3″ and 220 pounds of
solid muscle. As it happens, Jim Cathcart is 5’9″, rather slender and not the
muscular type. People who repossess cars, foreclose homes, or work for
collection agencies tend to be negative thinkers. However, one day Jim heard a
radio program with a message about the power of positive expectations. He
changed his attitudes and began planning for and expecting an exciting success
filled future. Today, Jim Cathcart is an internationally recognized leader in
the field of sales and management seminars and consulting. Jim has written
eight books, is the co-author of Relationship Strategies, an all time top
selling audio cassette program from Nightingale-Conant, and is one of the
highest paid professionals in his business. And all because he expected to
succeed, he expected the best life could provide.
This article about building the foundation for your life on the concrete
blocks of a positive attitude will cover four things: the source of attitudes;
the difference between directive attitudes and reactive attitudes, how the word
HALT can help you maintain and strengthen positive attitudes, and specific
skills and techniques for building expectations for a wonderful and exciting
Attitudes – Directive or Reactive
Most people fail to ever consciously take control of their lives, living
at the mercy of the prevailing winds of fate. Their attitudes are reactive in
nature rather than directive. These people constantly respond to changing
conditions rather than creating situations which suit their purposes.
If you were to lose your job today, how would you react? What emotions
would you feel? Would you be angry, incensed, hurt, disappointed? Would you
go home, feel terrible and beat-up on yourself for hours on end? A little over
a year ago, just before my wonderful wife Jan and I relocated to the Dallas
area from Denver, the company for which she worked went through what can only
be called disastrous changes. Over the course of four months, the firm laid-
off 90% of its work force, approximately 85 people. Due to decreasing
revenues, it was obvious to everyone employed by this company that these lay-
offs were going to take place and that nearly everyone would be affected. The
only question was, in which lay-off series would a person finally lose his or
her job. Very few people bothered to prepare for what was about to happen:
yet, they knew it was coming. Most were shocked, upset and completely taken by
Of the 85 people, only two prepared and lined up new jobs in advance,
staying only long enough to collect their severance checks and move onto a
brighter future. Four people hung on until the very end then, immediately went
out and found new opportunities. The vast majority, however, seemed to REACT
in a pessimistic fashion; deciding to live off unemployment for a few weeks or
months while displaying an attitude of “being laid-off has made my life
terrible.” The lay-offs were not terrible, they just were. The circumstances
became terrible because these people believed the company controlled their
professional lives. Rather than taking firm control of the situation, the
overwhelming response was to do just that–respond and waste a considerable
amount of energy complaining about the cards life had dealt them. For the
select few, it was anything but terrible. One woman secured a direct marketing
position with a large exporter in Hong Kong. Others went to work for various
competitors or started their own companies. One person transferred to the head
offices in Dallas. Jan was that person. The situation was identical for every
person involved. The difference was found in how each dealt with the life
change. The people who took control of the situation had directive attitudes.
The people who believed they were at the mercy of this company had reactive
As long as people let external forces create their thinking for them, they
will have little or no control over their lives. When we decide to take charge
of our beliefs, we take charge of our lives. Whether a person calls it
positive thinking, enthusiasm, or goal setting, it is nothing short of an “I
will control my destiny and expect wonderful things from life” attitude.
Thanks to Jan’s expectations, she was transferred to the company headquarters
with a substantial promotion. In four short years, she rose from a common word
processor to head the firm’s microcomputer systems network. Why? Because that
is what she wanted and more important – expected.
If you are ready to discover your own best attitudes, if you are ready to
begin directing your life by taking command of your thinking, then here is the
first action step to help you do just that.
Begin to look at your present attitudes and beliefs about life. Do you
believe that you can accomplish anything you truly desire? Or, do you believe
that you are subject to outside influences? Using Worksheet No. 1, write down
your beliefs about other people, co-workers, supervisors, and the significant
people in your personal life. Consider and write down your feelings about
success and your ability to succeed, your attitudes toward money, your health
and physical well-being. In order to build a new attitude, it’s essential to
know what materials are currently in the foundation on which you will be
ATTITUDES WORKSHEET NO. 1
In order for these ideas to work for you, it is necessary to be completely
honest with yourself. The purpose of this worksheet is to help you determine
where you are right now. Do your responses represent reactive or directive
1.What do you believe regarding your own potential for personal
achievement? For example, how much can you accomplish if you set your mind to
2.What are your beliefs concerning the influence of external forces? Do you
believe that big business, the government or other people can hinder your
progress? If so, to what extent?
3.Describe your general feelings about supervisors and co-workers. Do you
believe they appreciate your efforts? Are they jealous of your abilities? Are
you jealous of their abilities or positions?
4.Describe the feelings you have for the members of your family. How do you
perceive your spouse? Do you see more faults now than before? How about your
children? What do you see in them? Do you believe you gain more joy from your
family or a sense of responsibility?
5.How do you feel about your job? Is it what you would choose if you could
choose anything? When you are working, does it feel like toil or like play?
6.Do you believe you have the ability to change your life? Explain your
7.If you were faced with being laid-off, knowing well in advance that it was
coming, what would you do? Would you direct or react to the circumstances in
which you found yourself?
The Source of Attitudes
A few nights ago, I watched two movies on cable television, THE NATURAL
and MY FAIR LADY. For some reason, I found myself emotionally drawn into both
of these movies and began to wonder what affected me so strongly. It was
because the central characters, Roy Hobbs and Eliza Doolittle, expected to
overcome what appeared to be impossible odds. For a short period of time and
with only one chance left, a man in his mid-30’s became what he was determined
to become – the greatest baseball player in history. Eliza Doolittle overcame
the limitations of her upbringing to rise from flower girl to courtesan.
Why is it that so few people in this world have an attitude which says, “I
can and will succeed – I am going to reach my goals.” And, how is it that so
few people ever expect anything from life other than a job, a family, and
eventual retirement? The answer to both of these questions is that our
attitudes are seldom our own. They are usually learned from our parents,
teachers and peers who learned their attitudes from their parents, teachers and
peers. We expect from life what we have learned to expect from life.
There are also two ways in which attitudes can be developed rather than
learned. The more common of these is to form expectations based on intense
life changing situations. Perhaps the best example I can think of comes from
my friend Dottie Walters. Some years ago Dottie found herself in need of a job
in order to make ends meet. She began reading the classifieds and noticed that
the local newspaper had a position open for an advertising sales
representative. As Dottie couldn’t afford a baby-sitter, she put her two
daughters in their stroller and headed for the office of the newspaper. With
daughters in tow and total determination in her heart, she walked into the
editor’s office and literally demanded the job even though she had no
experience. The editor, not sharing Dottie’s vision, did his best to dissuade
her. Finally, but without admitting defeat, he said, “Fine, you can go out
there and beat the streets if you want to. It’s straight commission. When you
don’t sell anything, maybe then you’ll give up on this crazy idea.” With her
two daughters still in the stroller, Dottie took the sales kit and started
knocking on doors. The rest is history. Part of that history is that she sold
more advertising for this newspaper than had ever been sold to date. From
Dottie Walters’ need was born determination, and from the determination – an
attitude. The attitude was, “I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.”
Today, Dottie is a very successful business person, speaker, consultant and
Unfortunately, it is just as easy to develop negative attitudes as it is
to develop positive attitudes. Sometimes, when people get hurt through
relationships, they cease to risk being vulnerable. They hold back in order to
avoid being hurt again. Their attitude is that the risk is too great. People
who have failed at a business or career might settle into something less
satisfying but more “steady.” People who have invested and lost money in the
stock market may decide to play it safe with a savings account.
Dottie took a risk because, in her own mind, she had nothing to lose. And
she won. But sometimes, people lose and rather than lose again, quit the
game. An expectation is developed of, “If I take risks, I am going to lose
more than I can win.” Unfortunately, these people fail to recognize that it is
impossible to win the game if they’re not in the game.
The third method for developing an attitude or life expectation is to make
the conscious decision to change how you think and feel. Once the decision has
been made, it is impossible to ever go back. As Wayne Dyer, the author of the
best selling book The Erroneous Zones, puts it, “It’s like opening a door,
walking through the door and having it slam shut behind you. There is no way
back once you’ve walked through.” Although, it takes time and effort to muster
the necessary belief to make great changes; those changes begin with a
decision. Every person who has ever read Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill,
The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, The Power of Positive Thinking by
Norman Vincent Peale or any of numerous success building books has made a
conscious decision to change his or her attitudes and expectations of life.
Once the decision is made, there can be no going back to the old ways. When
ignored, the desire for personal success and happiness becomes a small
infection in the heart which continues to tear away at any spirit of failure
little-by-little until a person can no longer stand to be one of masses. He or
she must become unique, an inspiration unto herself or himself; seeking out and
experiencing fulfillment and satisfaction in every area of life, for without
these things – life loses its meaning.
Return to the worksheet and write down how you acquired the attitudes
represented in your responses. If these thoughts and feelings were learned
from other people, write down the names of the people. If from experiences,
outline the experience briefly. If from conscious choice, try to recall and
summarize the events that prompted the change in attitude.
What You Expect Is What You Get
Recently I heard an acquaintance say, “Just when I didn’t think things
could get any worse, one more thing went wrong. I really didn’t think anything
else could happen.” My observation would be that a great many things could
still “go wrong.” This person wasn’t expecting anything different. He was
content hoping nothing would happen. As he was not expecting changes for the
better, his attitudes produced nothing but changes for the worse. Conversely,
Jim Cathcart and Dottie Walters both decided to expect the best.
Most of the attitudes which we have about life, relationships, careers and
money have been with us for many years. In fact, thinking about changing
attitudes and doing it are two very different things. The minute a person
attempts to alter this mental and emotional foundation, he or she will
experience what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.” When people believe
certain conditions are “the way life is,” to begin believing otherwise creates
uncomfortable feelings. For most, the initial response is one of, “I can’t.
Life just doesn’t work this way. People are where they are for a reason.” In
short, people begin to rationalize that changing attitudes and life is
impossible or not meant to be.
It is meant to be. You are meant to have everything which life has to
offer. If you didn’t believe that, you wouldn’t be reading this. Once you
believe you can improve self-esteem, you can. Once you believe you can control
your money, you can. Once you believe you can reach your goals, you can. But
without an “I can” attitude first, none of this is possible.
As an analogy, in order to build the foundation of a house, it is
necessary to have a design, the right tools and materials. Who is the
architect of your new attitudes? You are, and it’s time to design a life
foundation to your unique specifications.
All of us experience life in many different ways not just financially or
in terms of a career. We experience physical health, relationships and
families, mental development, and spiritual beliefs. Each of these things has
an influence over how we perceive life. Worksheet No. 1 covered where you are
now. Worksheet No. 2 will be your design for everyday from this point
forward. Creating new attitudes can be likened to a high jump bar. For these
new expectations to become part of you, it is important that the sights not
initially be set too low or too high. It’s important to believe in the new
attitudes and to believe in their realization. This helps reduce the cognitive
dissonance. Once strong expectations become a way of life, you can raise the
bar again and again.
ATTITUDES WORKSHEET NO. 2
As you answer each of the questions below, stop for a few moments and do
your best to picture your thoughts. Make sure that you can see these
conditions or situations as real.
1.Mental Development: A person can become educated in different ways,
through reading books, taking correspondence courses, traditional college
classes, listening to audio cassette tapes and so on.
“I would feel as if I were knowledgeable if I knew the following things:”
2.Spiritual Belief: What a person believes about the nature of the
universe, God and religion is subjective. Above all else, it should be
something in which you have faith.
“I would believe myself to be a spiritual person if I. . .”
3.Physical Health: Whenever people are concerned about their physical well-
being, it is difficult to support positive attitudes in other areas.
“I would believe I was healthy if. . .”
4.Families and Relationships:
“I would believe my family or relationships were nearly perfect if. . .”
5.Career: Without thinking of a specific job title, concentrate on work
related tasks which give you personal satisfaction. For me, some of the
elements are communicating both in the written and vocal genres, using a
computer in my work, sharing ideas for better living, marketing, and
“The perfect work situation for me would include. . .”
6.Finances: This is perhaps the most difficult area in which to change an
attitude. There are two distinct sides to this, the amount you earn and the
amount you spend. And both sides must be represented in your attitude.
“I believe I can earn $__________ per year/month/week. With those
earnings, I could do the following:”
You now have a blueprint for your new attitudes, and know what you would
like to think and feel about life. Concrete and cement are the materials of a
building’s foundation, the material for turning these ideas into attitudes is
The tools you use are up to you. To continue with the analogy of the
building, to pour the cement, you could use a portable cement mixer, bring in a
cement truck, or both. The truck to fill the forms; the portable mixer and
wheelbarrow for detail work. The tools you use here will determine how fast
and how well the job can be done. Use the tools which work best for you, as
many as you can. And, if you think of techniques other than those suggested,
then by all means adapt them. By the way, any poor expectations should start
to fade as positive, optimistic attitudes begin to take shape and form.
Ever since Think and Grow Rich was published, constructive self-talk
(affirmation) and creative imagery (visualization) have been recommended for
helping people to experience a new sense of possibility in themselves.
Unfortunately, there are people and organizations who have made these exercises
into more than mere tools for self-expression, personal growth and realization,
as if they were magic wands for changing our lives and the lives of others.
The truth is that creative imagery and constructive self-talk are nothing more
than a statement like, “I can see myself. . .” When using creative imagery,
people begin to deliberately design pictures of where they want life to take
them, and then view those pictures at specific times when the mind is
receptive. To use this method for building new attitudes, mentally picture
sequences of events which support what you will gain from expecting the best.
Perhaps you can see your family enjoying more quality time together by
imagining various activities which everyone would enjoy. Maybe you can see co-
workers acting in concert rather than as individuals, working together as a
team. Possibly, you may see yourself with 10% more money than you’ve ever had
before, with a new car, home, or furniture, taking a fun-filled vacation, or
starting your own business.
The next step to using creative imagery involves the right environment.
Although many people recommend imaging first thing in the morning or right
before falling asleep, I’ve found that anytime of day will work provided there
are no interruptions. My preference is during working hours whenever I need a
break or in the evenings while relaxing. The time is not as important as the
As well, by speaking pre-determined positive thoughts over and over, a
person can make these powerful ideas a part of her or his everyday thinking.
This is called constructive self-talk. The thoughts can be one or two
sentences long or entire paragraphs. The choice is yours. The thoughts should
say things which are relevant to your new attitudes.
If you would like to improve the levels of communication at work, “I am able to
communicate with everyone effectively,” would be good. If you would like to
improve your personal relationships, “I see __the person’s name__ as I saw
him/her when we were first dating and feel those same attractions again.” If
you would like to improve your health, “I am doing the things necessary to live
a healthy and happy life.” These three examples are brief statements which,
when read twice each day, will begin to take hold in your mind, creating
changes in your behavior. I recommend taping your self-talk statements to the
bathroom mirror and reading them aloud as you’re getting ready for work in the
morning and again while preparing to retire at night. Two excellent books on
creative imagery and constructive self-talk are, In The Mind’s Eye by Arnold
Lazarus, Ph.D. and You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay.
A third method for reinforcing positive expectations is by continually
exposing yourself to positive ideas through audio cassette tape programs.
There are numerous publishers of single audio cassette tapes and full length 6
to 18 tape programs: Nightingale-Conant, Sybervision, and many others. My
personal choice is Nightingale-Conant. Their catalog is very extensive (over
100 titles) with a wide range of topics. The price of most 6-tape programs is
$55. One way to get extra value from your investment is to form a group of
three to five people. Each member of the group invests in a new program every
two or three months. Then, share the programs with each other. A terrific
group exercise is to talk about what you each learned from a program or
cassette tape and how you can apply the ideas. This can be a great source of
good ideas and practical feedback. In any event, the idea is to listen to
something positive almost everyday for 30 to 60 minutes.
A fourth way to build a more hopeful outlook on life is through
“association”. By associating with people who are doing what you want to do,
you begin to develop new expectations from the attitudes of others. Become
acquainted with people who are successful, who earn the kind of money you
believe you can and should earn. As a member of Toastmasters International, I
associate with people whose common goal is to develop the ability to speak in
public. As a member of the National Speakers Association, I spend time with
other professional speakers further developing my marketing and presentation
skills. The use of this tool must be a two-way street. It’s not just a matter
of sitting and taking things in, we have to contribute as well. As is always
the case, we can only get out of something what we put into something.
The fifth tool is choosing a role model, a person you would like to
emulate. Should you decide to use this particular method, select your role
model with care and only after a great deal of consideration. Make very sure
the person is someone you respect in many ways; a leader in his or her
profession, a person of good character, someone respected and admired by
others. In essence, it should be someone that you can look up to and say, “I
would like to be just like. . .” This provides a very concrete picture of who
you would like to become.
The final tool. . . HALT! There are five things represented by the word
HALT which can cause setbacks in building and maintaining positive
expectations. The letters stand for the words: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and
Tired. Whenever a person becomes too hungry, too angry, too lonely or too
tired, positive attitudes begin to deteriorate. The fifth thing is also
represented by the “H”. It is the word harassed. Remember that you can choose
how to react to harassment and problems. It may be difficult but try to think
through the situation rather than emotionalize about it. By thinking your way
through it, the situation won’t seem quite so overwhelming. In a later
section, I will cover the skills of problem solving. The key is found in
thinking through a problem rather than getting wrapped up in the feelings and
emotional responses. For now, anytime you feel your new attitudes slipping,
ask yourself, “Am I too hungry, too angry, too lonely, too tired or feeling
harassed?” The answer more often than not will be yes. And for some reason,
once you know the answer, things begin to return to normal.
Breaking Through The Attitude Boundary
The design is ready, the tools have been selected, and the material is in
place. All that is left is the labor. Realize that building these new
attitudes can take a few weeks or more depending on how high the sights are
set, how well ingrained the current beliefs are, and how often you’re willing
to practice. The more you practice and ignore that little inner voice which
says, “It’s not going to work,” the more quickly the changes will take place.
To help you begin this amazing journey, here is one final worksheet. To
use this action step, choose one new or different expectation for each area of
your life, something you can begin to believe and feel right now, today. The
intention is to provide you with a starting point, a tangible beginning. It’s
important for you to succeed at this. Be certain that these first choices are
believable because this will form the first layer of concrete in your attitude
ATTITUDES WORKSHEET NO. 3
Before completing the following sentences, think of one small change you
could make in terms of your expectations in each area of your life.
One thing I would like to begin to learn to do is. . .
In terms of my spiritual life, I would like to experience more. . .
To improve my physical well-being, I can. . .
4.Families and Relationships:
As a family or couple, one thing which would bring us closer together is:
In my job, I can expect. . .
To feel as if I have more control over my finances, I will. . .
Here are some ideas for completing these sentences. Knowledge truly is
power. Learning new things, however, should never be boring. When people want
to learn something new, as opposed to being forced to learn something new, the
learning process tends to feel more like play than work. Think of something
which you would like to learn about or study over the next 30 days. It may
involve nothing more than investing a little money and time in a book or audio
cassette tape and studying the material for four weeks. At the end of that
time, you will have learned something new. That is only the beginning.
As mentioned, spiritual expression is a very personal thing. If you
attend church regularly, one way to further develop yourself spiritually is to
begin to apply the message in each Sunday’s sermon directly to your
experiences. Or, you might choose to read a book on various spiritual beliefs
or philosophies, one section at a time, making notes about how the ideas can
work for you.
To improve your physical health, perhaps you could begin walking every
other day or modify your diet. Or, you could begin to appreciate your body
more by spending 15 seconds in front of the mirror saying, “I like how I look,”
(whether you believe it right now or not). You may find your health, weight,
nearly everything responding in very positive ways.
Families and relationships are an essential part of our lives. Taking a
little time out of each week to be together as a family or couple, spending
quality time with each other, helps generate positive feelings, healthy
communication and enjoyable experiences. Perhaps you could take in a movie, go
out to dinner, or get a baby-sitter and after a luxurious meal, stay overnight
in a hotel. The possibilities are nearly endless. Most of all, begin to
appreciate and be grateful for the significant people in your life. You can do
this by remembering how you felt when you and your spouse were dating, how you
felt the day your child was born, how you felt when your family attended your
high school graduation or other significant moments in your life.
All too often, a job becomes nothing more than a way to keep the bills
paid. Yet, you must have had some reason for choosing that particular line of
work. By focusing on the tasks you enjoy, and developing methods for further
developing those tasks, a job can quickly become more of a career and less of a
grind. If you would like to build a new career, then begin exploring the steps
which lead to making a move in the right direction.
A person can take charge of his or her money with some practical effort.
A later section concentrates solely on finances. The key is a written-down
budget. Without a budget, a financial plan, your money is controlling you.
Once you know where the money is going and begin to decide where and how it
will go, you take control of it.
Building The Foundation
Everything else in the Breaking Through Life’s Boundaries program is based
on “Attitude.” Some of the other steps include Beliefs, The Three Selves (Self
Image, Self Concept, Self Esteem), Personal Relationships, Solving Life’s
Problems, Personal Finances and much more. With an “I can change my life”
attitude, it is possible to alter the belief system, improve self-esteem, or
begin to solve the challenges which confront us.
Our lives are very much like building a house. We were each given a lot,
a piece of property, at birth. How well we take care of that lot (the
physical, mental and emotional being) will affect the value of the property –
our lives. Good landscaping, keeping the lawn watered and mowed, putting in
colorful flower beds, green shrubs and trees all enhance the value of the
property. Eating well, exercise and regular check-ups maintain the physical
body. Filling our lives with people who love and support us maintains and
strengthens us emotionally. Being selective about what we watch on TV, what we
read, what we listen to, supports the mental self. These things have a great
deal to do with the value of our lives.
The strength and design of the foundation, attitudes, and expectations,
may well determine how well and how long the house stands. Therefore, build
your attitudes with ideas that support a successful and valuable life for the
all the rest of your days.