Attitudes are subconscious emotional responses that surface once we set a goal, and these attitudes affect our behavior, direction, creativity, and motivation.

Attitudes aren’t positive or negative until you set a goal. Once you set a goal, you must ask yourself, “Does my present attitude lead me toward accomplishment of the goal, or away from it?” You might not be aware of your attitude, but subconsciously you may be saying, “I can’t bring myself to do it.” So what happens? Instead of changing the attitude, you give up on the goal: ”I guess I’m not cut out for this job.” “I guess I don’t deserve that car.” “I guess I’m not tall enough to play on this team. That’s just the way it is.” No that’s the way you are. All you need to do is change your attitude.

Take a moment to visualize your residence. You have an attitude about how you run your home. If you’re an orderly person, your attitude might be, “I like my house neat and clean.” Suppose your brother is staying with you for a week, and his attitude is, “I like my house messy.” How would you feel if you came home one night and found your brother’s belongings scattered everywhere? You’d feel uptight, irritated. Your self-talk might be, “This isn’t the way I live.” You would have a problem.

Suppose as a college student you have the attitude: “I can’t stand left-handed people”and, upon reporting to campus for your room assignment, you discover, to your horror, that your roommate is left-handed. You have a problem. Especially if he can’t stand right handed people. Attitudes solidify over centuries of conflict between Arabs and Jews; black and white South Africans, Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants; Sandinistas and Contras. Each side has an attitude about the other that limits interaction and prohibits positive change.

behavior and goals

Some of our outmoded attitudes prevent us, and others whom we influence, from making positive changes. In the 1950s, most Americans shared the attitude that “A woman’s place is in the home.” Most women today single in the workforce. Until 1947, blacks were not accepted in major league baseball. Then Jackie Robinson broke the “color barrier” and integrated the game. Today, that old, restrictive racial policy is unacceptable. Times change and values change. So attitudes must change along with them.

Years ago, after Diane and I quit teaching school and decided to go into business for ourselves, we were getting ready to fly to Denver to work with some people at the University of Colorado. When I walked into our house, Diane was scrubbing the kitchen floor. I said, “Aren’t you going? We’ve got a plane to catch in a half-hour.”

She said, “I’ll be ready as soon as I finish this.”

I said, “Diane, why are you scrubbing the kitchen floor?”

She said, “Well, I don’t feel like a mother unless I scrub the floor.”

How do you argue with that? You don’t. But you may not get to Denver, either. At the time, we had changed our lives dramatically but scrubbing the kitchen floor could have prevented us from enjoying our new lifestyle. Sometimes you’ve got to give up an old attitude about what it means to be a mother.

“Well,” she said, “If I don’t get this done, I won’t feel right about going.”

I said, “Why not hire somebody this time to do it for you?”

She said, “No, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that.” To Diane, at that time, scrubbing the floor was a mother’s obligation. But that attitude was holding up our lives.

So how do you apply this to your life? Well, if you have this knowledge, you’ll recognize that you may be lugging around a lot of outmoded attitudes that keep you from reaching your goals. And once you learn how to change old, negative attitudes, you will see that you don’t have to give up your goals. You can pursue them aggressively, with great anticipation.