Attitude Can Help or Hurt

Bill Abbate

What else is there to learn about attitude? Everyone knows a good attitude is good and a bad one is bad, so what more is there to say? Plenty!

Attitude and psychology

You will find the greatest truths about the most important subjects were there at the beginning. Let’s go back to one of the first people to discuss attitude and teach about it in the United States.

William James (1842–1910) is one of my favorites in history and is known as the Father of American Psychology. He was the first educator in the United States to offer a psychology course, spending most of his academic career at Harvard.

One of James’ most important works was The Principles of Psychology (1890), his groundbreaking text in psychology. The two volumes contain twelve hundred pages and took him twelve years to complete.

Attitude and its importance in life

There is no question how important attitude is in today’s world. Many studies show those who maintain a good attitude lead more productive lives with better relationships and experience more success and happiness than those with poor attitudes.

More than one hundred years ago, James stated:

“The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” William James (1842–1910)

The importance of attitude has never been greater than it is today. Its effect on your life is one of the great discoveries of recent history. James noted this when he said:

“The greatest discovery of the 20th Century is that our attitude of mind determines our quality of life, not circumstances.” William James

This connection between what is in us and what comes out of us is one of vital significance. Without thought, no action would occur. A right attitude makes the action more impactful in the world. James understood this when he said:

“Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” William James

Attitude’s influence

James recognized the influence of attitude in the world when he stated:

“A winner’s attitude: it may be difficult, but it’s possible. A loser’s attitude: It may be possible, but it’s too difficult.” William James

Since James wrote those wise words, understanding the two mindsets available to us has grown in significance. The winner’s attitude is that of a growth mindset, whereas the loser’s attitude is that of a fixed mindset

James noted another important point about how success and failure depend more on attitude than anything else in life.

“Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity.” William James

The reality of attitude

All was not sunshine and roses to James when discussing attitude. He was a realist and understood its good and bad sides.

“The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the pining, puling, mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it may have been engendered?
What is more injurious to others? What less helpful as a way out of the difficulty? It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which occasioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation.
At all costs, then, we ought to reduce the sway of that mood; we ought to scout it in ourselves and others, and never show it tolerance.” William James

At the end of his statement above, James returns to the reality of how we must deal with attitude. Life is full of difficulties, and to this, he said:

“It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.” William James

Lastly, James correctly connects attitude and character to who we truly are.

“I have often thought the best way to define a man’s character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it comes upon him, he felt most deeply and intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says: This is the real me!” William James

Final thoughts

This short article cannot do justice to James’ teaching and writing. You can find a great deal of interesting information about him and his life on the internet and in the many books published about his life and work. While I rarely use Wikipedia as a source, it is worth checking out to learn more about this remarkable man. William James on Wikipedia.

I leave you with some wise advice from this great man of psychology that you can easily implement in your life immediately:

“Successful men act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly, and you will be amazed at the positive results.” William James

In closing, I ask you to seriously consider how you can put your thoughts and attitude into action to live the fullest possible life!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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