What's That Smell?!

What’s That Smell? Attitude!

What in the world is that terrible smell? Have you ever asked that question? We all have and when we ask the question, we end up on a search for the source so we can eliminate it don’t we? When we forget, or just plain don’t take out the trash, it’s not long before the smell is unpleasant. Right? You might be wondering, "What does this have to do with attitude?"

Well, let’s explore this from a human emotion perspective. We are all human and we all possess emotions don’t we? When things are going good, most people can have a positive outlook and cheery disposition, but when things get tough, our emotional state usually changes. That’s natural isn’t it?

I remember a time when my son was about eleven or twelve years old and I was giving him one of my famous lectures after disciplining him for something that he shouldn’t have been doing. In his defense, I was notorious for long winded lectures, falsely believing that I was doing some kind of good for him.

I still remember his body language and what it was saying to me during that long winded lecture!

I could see his anger and frustration as I rambled on and I stopped and said, “Son, your attitude stinks. I don’t like your body language and facial expressions, you need to straighten up and adjust your attitude if you want to get in deeper!” What happened next has stuck with me for years because it was so funny!

He turned and began whistling and skipping through the living room and into the dining room and exclaimed, “Is this any better Dad? I am so thankful for your discipline and your long winded speech! Fa la la la! Now, by this time I was furious, but his mother almost fell over laughing, and it wasn’t long that I was laughing too! What a ridiculous expectation I had of him! To tell the truth, my son has actually been an inspiration to me because he has one of the best attitudes I have ever witnessed.

One of my pet peeves is bad attitudes, and I addressed a lot of people about their attitude over the year. Thank goodness I finally realized it is not my job to manage the attitudes of others. I used to think that I was the Attitude Police! I would see a person that I thought had a bad attitude and go right to work, investigating its source, giving a prescription to remedy it and walk away thinking I had done my job. But the more intentional I became to grow as a leader, the more aware I became of my need to monitor and improve my own attitude.

It wasn’t until I chose to focus on my own attitude that I understood the attitudes of others. Often times, when we are paying attention to the attitude of others, we are not aware that our attitude is in need of adjustment. Sadly, unless we are secure and open enough to allow those we lead to speak into our lives and tell us how they are seeing our attitude, we can have a garbage can that is running over and stinking up the whole place! Why is that? We really don’t intend to have a wrong or bad attitude, but, because we usually judge our own actions by our intentions and judge others by their actions, we are unable to see how we are affecting others.

Because our attitudes are created by how we think, we need to take some of our wrong thinking and throw it into the trash. Then, we need a system in place to remember to take the trash out! There are a few things we can do to set ourselves up to keep a good attitude and to make sure it isn’t beginning to stink up the place.

  1. Be intentional about having a personal plan to grow yourself and to develop better people skills.

  2. Find an accountability partner and a mentor. We never outgrow everyone and there is always someone we can reach ‘up’ to.

  3. Seek to understand-your values, your passion, and your natural strength zones and avoid situations that limit you in those areas.

  4. “Seek to understand others ‘before’ seeking to be understood.” Steven Covey/The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Sometime back while studying the mind and body connection, Bob Proctor made the statement that our energy precedes us. In his teaching, he mentioned the work done by scientist Semyon Kirlian who, in 1939 photographed the energy field of the human body. The field of energy would change as the emotions and moods of those being photographed changed.

Several studies since that time have given us more understanding that everyone has an energy field that based on how strong our emotional state, we have to power to change the energy of those around us. We also can have our energy changed too. Have you ever known someone who can change the mood of a room just by their presence? I know I have. Early in my personal growth journey, my wife said something to me that caused me to become more aware of this truth. She and my son were always jokesters. They thought everything was funny and I used to get aggravated at them for not taking some things more seriously.

After a hard day at work I sometimes came home in a bad mood and when I did, I habitually came into the house with a critical attitude. I usually didn’t say much for fear of sounding critical, but on the way into the house I could find a million things I thought should have been done during the day. I thought I was being nice by not voicing what I thought, but I would walk into the room and everyone would stop mid-laugh and get real serious looking. After a few moments, they would go out of the room and ‘get serious!’ They would quit laughing and having fun and to find something to do to get away from Mr. Serious!

One day my wife said, “You can walk right into a room and suck the life out of it!” I was offended and began to question her so I could defend my ‘serious’ attitude, but after listening to everything she had to say I began to think of ways I could have a better attitude. The one thing that ticked me off about other people was the one thing I was doing to the most important people in my life! I determined to change my attitude that day and to let others tell me when they thought my attitude wasn’t good.

After that incident I began to watch groups that were gathered. I could physically see the body language and facial expressions change when people would enter or leave a room. Some people can enter a room and make people feel wonderful about themselves, yet others can enter and cause everyone to question themselves, or even feel bad about themselves. I realized that as a leader of a work group and my family, with a strong, outspoken personality, I had the power to change the energy of others too.

In my studies of the mind, I have learned that attitudes don’t just happen. They are formed. Somewhere along the line in life, I had unknowingly let my attitude go south. As a matter of fact, at times, my parents still call me Jolly Jumper. They said as a young child, I was always bright, cheery, and fun loving. So, somewhere between early childhood and my middle thirties, something happened to change my disposition and my attitude.

I remember having some people tell me that they thought I was unpredictable. That was the nice way of saying that I was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! My emotions were all over the place; one minute on top of the world, excited, and cheering everyone on, and the next, ready to fire everyone and start over! Imagine the confused energy I was sending out! As I studied the mind and thought, I realized that thoughts are things, and they are energy. That energy creates a process of thinking that influences perceptions, beliefs, emotions, and eventually an attitude.

Thoughts are energy that produces either a positive or a negative feeling. That feeling transmits that energy into physical form, such as a smile or a scowl, a relaxed or tense body, etc. Inconsistent thinking creates inconsistent patterns. Those patterns eventually show up in our attitude toward life and others. The sad thing is that most of the people in the world let their thoughts go unchecked, therefore allowing their attitudes go unchecked and adjusted.

The truth is that attitude is the only thing we actually have total control over. We don’t control our chemical and physical make up, our DNA, our looks, how long we live or don’t live, how others feel about us, etc. But we can control what we think and how we think, but it takes awareness, intentionality, and determination to have a good attitude.

How is attitude like milking a cow? A cow doesn’t milk itself, and it doesn’t stay milked! So, check your attitude and adjust it regularly every day! Take out the trash! It’s stinkin’ up in here!

Here’s a couple of great little books to learn more about attitude:

How Successful People Think and Attitude 101-What Every Leader Needs to Know, both by John C. Maxwell

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