Attitude – The Elusive Elixir of Life

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Mind you, contradictions do exist. For instance, in the common use of the word ‘Attitude’. At one end, it’s supposed to be something good, as reflected from the galaxy of quotes, FB posts and forwarded jpgs and gifs. Best summed up in “HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE”. Contrary to this, the word attitude also gets connoted as a negative quality of a person, expressed as ‘he has such an attitude’ or ‘apna attitude apne paas he rakho’ of ‘itna attitude humari company ke liye aachha nahi (3 Idiots interview scene)’. What makes it so elusive to define and express? Why is it promised as an elixir that can solve all problems in life, and lead one to not just success, but peace too.

It doesn’t have a standard definition, though psychology claims to be the base and has wonderful expressions for it. Keeping things simple, I would adopt the following understanding of attitude: a learned predisposition to respond favorably / unfavorably towards an object / entity.

Attitudes are learned. So they don’t happen to be embedded in your genetic code. Nor can they be taught to you, though you can be taught how to harness and harbor the fertile mind for healthy attitudes (coming to that later). Attitudes have to be induced from experiences, thus one has to be retrospective of occurrences to which one is subjected. 

They are a predisposition, a tendency which can almost predict with accuracy the behavior / response to a stimulus (situation / occurrence). 

And this tendency is consistent in its outlook and expression – you may tend to look at something favorably say 90 out of 100 times, or look at the same entity unfavorably, again say 90 out of 100 times.

I can see you are recalling the ‘half full half empty glass’ anecdote. Yes, that’s precisely the outcome of attitudes at work, but we never labeled the functioning mechanism behind our nazariyan (perspective) as ATTITUDE.

Let’s simulate a situation. Mr. White has been invited to deliver a lecture, at the end of which he is reimbursed a sum of Rs. 300 /-. He is happy, as would all of us be on receiving that little ‘extra’; and he has already started planning on how to spend the sum. He may even go long on his thoughts and start feeling that by delivering extra lectures, he can bring more sunshine in his life. On the way back, his bike has a flat tyre, the repairing of which costs him Rs. 250/-. 

Take 1 – Mr. White’s Response:

This always happens to me. I can never get what I dream of. Everyone else who goes to deliver lectures, this doesn’t happen to them. I am never going to go anywhere in life. (The chatterbox is a termite, eating away your brain).

Now figure this:

Mr. Black has been invited to deliver a lecture, at the end of which he is reimbursed a sum of Rs. 300 /-. He is happy, as would all of us be on receiving that little ‘extra’; and he has already started planning on how to spend the sum. He may even go long on his thoughts and start feeling that by delivering extra lectures, he can bring more sunshine in his life. On the way back, his bike has a flat tyre, the repairing of which costs him Rs. 250/-. 

Take 2 – Mr. Black’s Response:

I was destined to have a flat tyre and an outflow of Rs. 250/-. Good that God made provisions and the guest lecture was a happy occurrence for me. I still have Rs. 50/- left, let me buy some chocolates for my kids.

Trust me, this has happened to all of us, albeit in different ramifications. And we would have more or less responded in either of the two ways :CONSISTENTLY. And that’s the most dangerous as well as wonderful thing about Attitudes – they stay put!!! So if it’s a negative attitude – consistent unfavorable outlook towards all things in life, it stays that way. 

By the way, how many of you thought that the situations are good, but the use of names was inappropriate? It’s because we would picture Mr. White in a positive frame and Mr. Black in a negative frame – because that’s our ATTITUDE TOWARDS BLACK AND WHITE. Unless of course it’s a Black Mercedes!!!

We are predisposed to think of Black as negative. And so, slowly but surely, we become predisposed towards so many things in life – brands, persons, places, activities, events, ideas, opinions, philosophies, cultures and so on. And once a predisposition is formed, it gets concreted – etched in stone. We would not make an effort (Why? —that, maybe in another writeup) to alter an existing attitude. After all, we have many important things to do in life, don’t we?

So, where is the learning part? Would you agree that you purposefully learned to harbor negative attitudes? No ways…The answer is that most of this form of learning happens passively. The chatterbox in our brain, in all such situation, repeatedly talks the same things, and habituates or conditions us to this ‘line of thought’. The brain is a lovely thing…the devil and the angel, both are manifest in the brain. 

And that is why it is crucial that we are introspective of the train of thoughts traversing our brain during such situational encounters. We need to convert the passive to active learning. We need to decide which predisposition to learn. 

We need to consciously seek the wonderful elixir called Positive Attitude. It is elusive,but not unattainable. And repeating what I said earlier, you just need to learn to be habituated to positive attitude, because it’s there, it STAYS. It may shake once in a while, but it won’t crash. 

And that’s what I tell my students many times….A donkey with a positive attitude is more valuable than a horse with a foul one. 

If I were allowed to teach only ONE thing to people, it would be this:

ATTITUDE.

After all, I would keep learning too.

I am Ravi Vaidya, a management educator by profession. This is where I intend to be myself, where I can ‘I’deate.

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One comment
  1. Very well said.
    Latest swag is Attitude.. unless you have one, people won’t understand you..that’s the common norm in today’s generation.
    But POSITIVE attitude is a mature approach. It let’s us learn, to grow. Life is full of challenges and positive attitude allows us to challenge the challenges with full zeal and enthusiasm
    It’s the Life Line!!

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