Why Your Attitude is Everything
If I were to tell you that whether you feel excited about something as opposed to anxious or apprehensive about it essentially hinges on your ability to consciously choose your attitude, would you push back on me?
Each of us has a secret weapon within us that’s incredibly powerful, but that we tend to overlook, and that is our choice to adopt a certain attitude or mindset in a given moment.
Although we’re often hard-pressed to admit it, regardless of our circumstances, our mindset is actually a choice. And it’s our choice alone. No one can truly make us feel a certain way about something without us choosing (whether consciously or unconsciously) to give them that power over us.
It's our decision to approach something with fear or trepidation as opposed to excitement. But it doesn’t always feel that way. (In fact, it usually doesn’t feel that way).
So in case you’re skeptical of all of this, here's a real-life example for you to consider:
A little over a year ago now, I signed up for my first CrossFit class. (To clarify, I had tried one-off classes in the past, but I had never purchased a membership or committed to participate regularly in CrossFit before that point).
I signed up for a 3-month membership, mostly in support of my then-boyfriend. He had wanted to get back into a regular training regimen, and I knew it would mean a lot to him if we could participate in the workouts as a couple - as a team.
The wrinkle? I was fairly fucking dubious of CrossFit and, more specifically, my ability to participate in it without getting hurt. The handful of classes I had taken in the past had consistently left me injured and frustrated by the brutal impact that the workouts had on my body.
I was anxious - really anxious - about giving it another shot and committing to paying over $200/month to attend class regularly. And when I’m anxious, a litany of objections (and often myths, at that) tend to run through my mind - such as, in this case:
“Why should I join something that’s so expensive when I’m capable of working out for free?”
“What if I get hurt and can’t participate in the race I’m registered for later this summer?”
“Isn’t CrossFit essentially a never-ending pissing contest? How will I compare to the other people in the class? Will I be able to keep up with the group and hold my own?”
“Will I put on so much muscle mass from doing weight-oriented CrossFit workouts that I’ll become a slower runner?”
“Don’t I need to have matching tattoos on my quads or triceps to do CrossFit?” . . . ;)
Moreover, I felt like I had a pretty good workout routine in place already. I ran consistently, actively used my gym membership, and participated in a slew of free workout classes that my employer (Fitbit) provided to us on-site. If I began taking several CrossFit classes per week, I was concerned that my body would need more recovery time and wouldn’t be able to handle much in the way of supplementary workouts or runs.
But before this completely deconstructs into a post about my avoidance issues, allow me to return to my initial point: We have the power to decide how we approach a given situation or circumstance. And when we’re able to make that decision consciously, doing so allows us to leverage that power and adopt an attitude that will set us up for success instead of dooming us to failure.
Applying this concept to my situation, it’s pretty easy to see that I was: (1) choosing to focus on my negative perceptions or fears around CrossFit workouts (thereby going into the situation anticipating the worst), and (2) clinging to the comparative safety, security, and familiarity (the comfortable “known”) of my usual fitness regimen. I realized that by fixating on all of the potential risks posed by CrossFit, I was choosing to approach it with a fearful and negative attitude before even giving it a chance.
And this attitude that I’d chosen to adopt wasn’t serving me. It was stressing me out and showcasing my weak and defensive side instead of the strong and centered version of myself - my best self.
So I wondered, what if I remain open and encourage myself to take on a new challenge, to try something different? And what if I instead focus on the potential positive outcomes of implementing this change to my fitness routine?
I came to recognize that I had the power to choose how I felt about going to my first CrossFit class and committing to a new program. How I felt about it could either be a conscious choice or an unconscious one. I could opt to focus on all of my fears (like getting injured, bulking-up, how I'd stack-up against the other participants, etc.) and allow them to dictate my attitude -or- I could choose to start viewing it as an adventure.
I could psych myself up for it by focusing on the fact that I’d get to spend that hour bonding with my boyfriend through the shared experience (read: suffering) of the class.
I could choose to feel excitement about having the opportunity to meet new people in the local area - maybe even make some new friends.
And I could always elect to go slow and take it as easy as I needed to take it. I’d still likely burn more calories than I'd have burned by going for a run or taking a generic fitness class at my gym.
Anyway, you get the point, right? If I consciously made the decision to focus on positive things - the positive possibilities associated with doing CrossFit - my mindset going into the class would be drastically different than if I instead chose to dread the workout and focus on (and give power to) all of my fears, insecurities, and concerns surrounding it.
We often want to believe that how we feel about something, our attitude towards it, is not a decision we have made, but an unavoidable, uncontrollable circumstance. We feel powerless to whatever emotions we are experiencing in that moment, and so we frequently succumb to those emotions, letting them drive us and determine our attitude.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you’re able to have the requisite presence and self-awareness to take a step back and look at things with a measure of objectivity, you'll realize that you have a choice - your emotions do not have to drive you. You have the power to take control in these situations and actually dictate, actually choose, how you feel about and how you approach a given circumstance. All it takes is focus and some practice.
Now, there’s a kicker to all of this: Regardless of whether you consciously choose your attitude or not, it will tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
How so? Well, if I have a hopeful, positive, open, and accepting attitude towards trying CrossFit, I will more than likely notice and focus on all of the good things about it, and my mindset will get positively reinforced. Similarly, if I approach CrossFit with a negative, fearful, and anxious mindset, those emotions will prevent me from connecting with others and make me more likely to notice things about the situation that validate or affirm my negative frame of mind.
Further, on a social level, when you approach something with trepidation and anxiety, that negativity and fear shines through, and you attract a very different set of people (if anyone at all) than you would if you instead chose to step forward with courage and vulnerability. If I have a brave, excited, and open attitude towards trying CrossFit, others will notice it, and they will be more likely to like me and to want to be around me.
In other words, by taking ownership of your power to choose your own mindset, you may actually be able to drive the outcome of things.
So here's your chance to try this out. Think about a couple of different commitments you have coming up in the next week or two that you’re anxious about, whether the commitments are meetings, dates, dinners, networking events, parties, new classes, fitness challenges, etc.
When the first commitment comes along, allow yourself to feel that anxiety, worry, fear, or apprehension. Let yourself go into the event with that mindset. (You’ll be okay).
Then, when the second commitment arises, consciously work to hone your attitude upfront with respect to that event. Shift your perspective from one of anxiety or apprehension to one of excitement and anticipation. Tell yourself how excited you are to go to that event. Then see how it goes.
Afterwards, I’d like you to report back to me and let me know how the second commitment went compared to the first. Did you have a better experience than usual? --a different experience in any way?
Feel free to try this out with multiple events or occasions, practicing different approaches to learn what might work best for you.
By working to actively choose your attitude on a regular basis, you’ll be harnessing a power that you’ve always had inside of you, whether you knew it or not. And I, for one, think that’s pretty rad.