Four Productive Attitudes

When I was younger, I tried to control the whole world. When – on my 26th birthday – I realized I couldn’t do that (it’s too big), I settled for learning how to control myself and my reaction to whatever the seemingly out-of-control world sent to my “In” box.

Doing this is a complex, multi-layered project. In part, however, it’s made easier by trying to maintain four productive attitudes.

They are:

Accept Reality

Yes, it’s a big world. And it’s full of people working their individual agendas. Plus, there are uncounted random and unseen forces operating in positive and negative directions. All of these elements are interacting with all the others in complicated ways no clairvoyant or supercomputer can predict.

As a result, it’s important to give up your fantasies and illusions about what’s going on in the world. It’s crucial that, instead, you cultivate your awareness and understanding of reality, and behave accordingly.

One way to view your life’s journey is as follows: a growth experience from the narrow confines of infancy through childhood, the burgeoning awareness of teenage years, and in early adulthood the beginning of the removal of all your remaining blinders, until at some point you have the capacity to see what’s really going on.

Welcome that capacity, and make the fullest use of it you can in your work and your life. Doing so is one characteristic that separates most of the productive and successful people in the world from the crowd.

Keep Getting Better

As I just wrote, your life’s journey goes from infancy to the maximum skills, talents, knowledge, and experience you can cobble together. This journey can continue for the entirety of your life, if you are willing.

That’s a good thing.

Grow or Die is a basic concept that applies to many aspects of life on this planet, including you. Although no amount of growth I’m aware of can prevent the finality of death that awaits all of us, we can improve the quality and impact of our journey through life by making efforts to keep getting better all the time.

This means:

  • Comparing the “you” of today to the “you” of days past, not to anyone else.
  • Striving as often as you can to improve at least some aspect of your work and your life, no matter how unimportant the aspect and how small the improvement may be.
  • Marking and rewarding any improvements you notice.
  • Sharing the awareness and fruits of your improvements with others.

Striving to get better all the time is a formula not only for improved productivity and success, but for greater personal satisfaction and joy, as well as for an increased ability to help others you care about enjoy better lives, too.

Work on What You Control

There are a million things in the world you can control, and a million things you can’t. Spending time and energy on items you can’t control is not only a waste, it’s an invitation to disappointment, frustration, and a sense of futility or powerlessness.

After you’ve experienced the emotional reaction in response to anything that happens in your work and your life, it’s sensible to make your first thought a quick analysis of how much control you have over that thing. Then use that analysis to determine how much time and energy you will put into whatever response you may eventually decide to make.

This approach helps you channel your best efforts into possibilities where your thoughts and actions can have the biggest impact, and leads to calm, measured attitudes and behaviors where you’re least able to make a difference.

It’s A New Day

In economics, there’s a concept called “sunk cost.” Basically, the idea is this: if you can’t possibly recover money you’ve already spent or committed, then you should not let that money have any impact on what you choose to do in the future.

That’s a concept you can fruitfully apply to many other aspects of your work and your life.

Basically, I’m saying “what’s past is past.” You can’t change what you’ve already done or how that has already turned out. Rather than dwell on the historical record – and most painfully on what you could have done better – it’s far more fruitful to focus on the present and the future, and to do all you can to generate the best results you can, going forward.

This attitude goes hand-in-hand with accepting reality and working only on what you can control. It helps you focus your best efforts on the gears and levers that are actually available to you. It also promotes an upbeat attitude that helps you shake off past disappointments and failures, and upgrade your expectations for a more positive future.

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