I wanted to tell her she was just a “new kid on the block” and she didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. I had proposed, completed impeccable research and written a dynamite dissertation. My beloved major advisor, my great mentor, and my superhero, Dr. Pat Love, had left the University. Someone new had been hired to replace her.
No matter who it had been, there was simply NO WAY that ANYONE could fill Pat Love’s shoes. But I suppose in her attempt to do so, she felt like knocking down my entire process was the way to announce her arrival.
I was set to defend in just a few days, and she blew it out of the water. I was going to have to rework my entire past nine months of grueling work.
Thank goodness I had just read Victor Frenkl’s book: Man’s Search for Meaning.
I had been so moved by his story of surviving a brutal life in concentration camps. His quote about attitude had been embedded deeply into my heart: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This past weekend, I heard a message by Kendall Bridges about “Staying Positive in a Negative World” where he shared this quote by Viktor Frankl and stated that “Right Attitude + Right Action = Advancement!” You can hear that powerful message by clicking there.
My mind was whirling as he delivered the powerful message, so I “borrowed” his theme for this week. Why? Because so many people are trying to figure out how to “ADVANCE” out of this time of great challenge.
I recently conducted a week-long Challenge called “Advancing through Adversity!” During the week, I interviewed nine amazing guests who gave great direction about how to Advance through Adversity.
I chose the words carefully. I love words. I love the origin of words and the meaning of words. Advancing has been defined as “making significant progress despite minor or severe setbacks.” I love that. Because it has the sense of pushing through!
I chose the word adversity because I love its definition, and it is so fitting for this time! It has been defined as a major or continuous difficulty requiring courage and determination.
I believe that “Advancing through Adversity” and “Right Attitude + Right Action = Right Advancement” are very similar concepts!
So what is a “right attitude“? I teach my clients and train my coaches to use these as the criteria for a right attitude:
- Empowering to self and others
- Creates Win/win
- Promotes connection and healing
I am aware that social media, popular TV shows and movies promote “just tell it like it is…“ Or that we all have the right to our attitudes.
I believe that claiming rights to just any attitude that pops up in us is one of the reasons we are facing such challenging times as these.
Yes we all have basic “rights.“ The rights to see things the way we want to see them, the right to adopt any attitude we choose to adopt. However, what we fail to consider is the long-term consequences of just allowing attitudes and thoughts to run riot in us. I actually call it “self will run riot.”
I was having a discussion over lunch this weekend with a wonderful young couple. One was saying, “Well, we are married so I have the right, and should just be able to say what I’m thinking and what I’m feeling anytime I want to.” Yes, we all have the right to that attitude. But what does that attitude bring us? Particularly when it’s an attitude about relieving your own angst with no consideration for your partner? That is certainly not a win-win. It might empower the one speaking, but it certainly does nothing to empower the partner.
What if we all paused, even when we have been wronged, to consider the attitude we address it from? What if we chose to address it from a place that empowered all involved? What if we chose to address it in a way that created a scenario where both people win? What if we chose to address it in a way that brought healing and connection?
Recently I had a couple in my office, and the husband was working diligently on his recovery process. His behavior through the years had brought his wife great pain and disappointment. She was rightfully frustrated. But she had taken the attitude that his process was not going fast enough, and he certainly was not at his best. In my office, she said to him, “I’ve waited for you all these years to get your “stuff“ together, and although I see you working on things, it’s not good enough; and it’s not fast enough. I’m sure if you go find someone else you’ll speed up the process and get it done, so I’ll help you speed it up. I’m filing for divorce!“
You might be surprised how often I hear things very similar to this. The frustration is totally understandable. However, the “wrong attitude” is a very poor choice that affects the entire family.
Perhaps she felt empowered at the moment, but he did not. Perhaps for her, a divorce was a “win”, but certainly not for their four children. There was certainly no healing nor connection promoted. Why choose that attitude?
Don’t think poorly of her. We’ve all been guilty of choosing similar sour attitudes at one time or another!
She returned for her individual appointment later that day, and I shared that I totally understood her exasperation. She asked me if I thought he “Got it.” I told her I doubted it, and we walked through the above criteria about a “right attitude.”
She immediately defended, “You can’t tell him anything with a right attitude!” She added adamantly that she wasn’t willing to “sugarcoat” anything for him. Thankfully, she was willing to explore the process of choosing our attitudes with me. We were able to design a statement from a “right attitude.“
It said something like this, “After so many years of patiently waiting for you to get help, I am pretty exasperated. I appreciate these improvements that I have seen (and she listed them). Sadly, I am feeling very impatient and like my only option might be divorce. I’d like to hear what the healing process looks like, and see if we can find a way to do some things that would extend my patience. And would you be willing to double up on some sessions or do some marathon work?“
She felt so good about it that she actually texted it to him. He responded quite positively, and actually asked if he could come join our session. It was amazingly productive.
What if we all considered a “right attitude,“ following healthy criteria before addressing others?
The next part of the formula is “right actions.” I teach clients and train Caches that right actions have the same criteria as a right attitude:
- Actions that empower self and others
- Actions that are win/win
- Actions that promote healing and connection
Years ago, when I developed these criteria, I did a 30 day “toxic attitude” and “toxic action” fast. Although I’m a big believer of fasting food for physical detox and spiritual reasons, this toxic attitude and toxic action fast was the hardest fast of my life. But it was transformational!
What if the actions you took in difficult moments were empowering to yourself and others involved? What if they were win/win? What if those right actions promoted healing and connection? How different would your career be? How different would your relationships be? How different would your life be?
Right Attitude + Right Action = Right Advancement.
I don’t know about you, but for years I found that my life was two steps forward and three steps back. Sometimes three steps forward and two steps back. I used to say the progress and advancement was not significant.
But it was significant. It was significantly in the opposite direction of who I wanted to be; and what I wanted to accomplish and contribute.
You can have right advancement… Toward your goals of who you want to be and what you want to accomplish and what difference you want to make. You can have that right, forward advancement if you are combining right attitude with right actions.
By the time I completed my toxic attitude and toxic action fast, the direction of my life had changed significantly … this time toward the right advancement. Prior to that, I had written the same goals and the same proclamation year after year. Rehearsing them out loud daily in the morning, and in the evening. To little or no avail.
But suddenly, with the right attitude, and right action, goals were being checked off the list, and things I was proclaiming (saying things that were not, as if they were), were becoming new habits and normal ways of living.
It’s not too late to start. No matter how many times you have fallen, how many poor choices you’ve made, how badly you’ve been hurt, or how many setbacks you’ve experienced. It is not too late! Here are the steps I took to detox from my toxic attitudes and toxic actions, to create right advancement:
1. Take responsibility for your thoughts that drive your attitude. No one is making you think anything. You are creating your own thoughts even when you’re terribly wrong. Press pause. Zip your lips until you have found a right attitude (that aligns with the right attitude criteria) before saying or doing anything.
2. Write down the toxic thoughts that are creating a toxic attitude. Literally, write them down. Leave a space between each one. Go back and rewrite each toxic thoughts in a way that is empowering to yourself and the situation; that is a win/win (for all involved); and that promotes healing and connection. Do not say one word or address the situation in any manner until you have done so. You will probably find, like me, that you spend a lot of time in silence!
3. Find a mentor or a coach to walk with you through this process. It is difficult! We all have old habits that make it difficult to think of things that fit the stated criteria. Find someone you can reach out to and get help! I had to have lots of help during the first few weeks of my 30 day toxic attitude and toxic action fast. But I finally got the hang of it, And how I was feeling was dramatically different. It’s okay to have help!
4. Keep a gratitude journal. To this day I still write those things for which I am grateful every single day. Sometimes it’s a lot of people’s names on a list. Sometimes it’s one person’s name written multiple times. Practicing gratitude helps rewire your brain. It resets your reticular activating system (RAS). When you’re reticular activating system is set to getting even, proving yourself right, and having the last word, you will be quite successful at it. And your advancement will be in the wrong direction. Click here to learn more about the power of your reticular activating system (RAS).
5. Make amends. From this moment forward, when you find yourself outside of right attitude or right actions, go back and make amends. “I was wrong, please forgive me.” I call those the six most magical words of all time! I attempt to do this on an ongoing basis. But during my first 12 weeks, in addition to cleaning up my side of the street on an ongoing basis, I also reached back to someone who had been negatively impacted by my toxic attitudes and toxic actions from the past. It’s a difficult thing to do, but it makes us less likely to continue the patterns.
I started with a story about my new major advisor’s arrival on the scene of my life. (It was more like a nightmare than a story!) After my dissertation was blown out of the water, instead of telling the newcomer things that would have clearly been from toxic attitudes and from toxic actions, I pressed pause and went and sat in the stairwell in my graduate school.
While I was desperately trying to recover and get myself to an attitude that was empowering for myself and others; that was a win/wi;, promoting healing and connection frame of mind … the assistant advisor of my committee came walking up the stairs. He could see my tears, and sat down on the step beside me. He said, “I’ve known you for about five years now and I’ve never seen these tears. What’s going on?“
I took a deep breath and told him that I was trying to get myself back to the right attitude and right actions, and relayed what had happened. He listened thoughtfully, then he stood up. He took a step down, and reached up and took my hand and pulled me to my feet. Then he pulled me forward as he went down the stairs with my hand in his. He said, “We are going down to my office to fill out a form to change your major advisor. I guess I was still too bamboozled to follow what he was saying. I sat quietly while he filled out the paperwork. I signed, he signed. He said, “I am now your major advisor, and you are defending your dissertation as scheduled on Friday!“
What if I had not pressed pause? What if I had not realized that my toxic attitude was going to lead me to some toxic action? What if I had not sat in the stairwell to reconsider?
You may say or think, “Dr. Neecie this is tough stuff!” You are absolutely right!
But I can promise you this, right advancement makes it worth every bit of the tough stuff! The right advancements in my life have been so incredibly rewarding, and have created a deep sense of joy and fulfillment. I want that for you too! And you can have it!
What a difference we could make in our current environment if we were just courageous enough and determined enough to live the formula. Right Attitude + Right Action = Right Advancement. Get started now! Right Advancement will be on its way!