Attitude – The Critical Third Leg

When we strive for success we typically strive to acquire the knowledge and the skills in order to succeed. And, often, we know of and yet pay much less attention to the third leg in the “triangle of success” – attitude. Or we know attitude is important, but are frustrated in our attempts to change it.

Internal obstacles can be as overwhelming and inhibiting as external obstacles. John Whitmore, one of the first business coaches in the UK, found among his clients that the “single universal internal block” was consistently similar – some variation of fearing failure, lacking confidence, self-doubt, or lacking self-belief. Whitmore proposed that self-belief is the key to manifesting potential and high performance. In other words - attitude.

My experience is that real shifts in attitude come less from repeating phrases, and more from increased skill in recognizing “what’s so”. Sometimes when we are immersed in a situation we take our perception of it for granted, like a fish perceiving water. This automatic "what's so" is often helpful. The fish does not gain a great deal by pondering water. And humans are so bombarded with stimuli that it improves our effectiveness and sanity to have some things “on automatic”. And, there are times when more intentional perception is needed.

Suppose you feel stuck in a particular area or goal. Try asking yourself these questions: What do you know to be “true” about this situation? What leads you to believe it is “true”? Can you be certain that it is “true”? What might change or be possible if it were not “true”? These are powerful questions in themselves, and demonstrate the possibilities in attitude. We can maintain an attitude of certainty regarding our perception, regarding "what's so". And we can maintain an attitude of openness to learning, an attitude of checking things out even when we have been certain about their “truth” for some time.

Here’s another example. For many years common wisdom told people to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and then work to improve their weaknesses. This made perfect sense. If you were already good in something, just keep on with it - the areas that were not so good were what needed attention. If you have perchance forgotten how prevalent this “truth” was, think how often your boss, family, and sometimes friends have suggested to you things that you should “fix”, compared to how often these same people focused on how you might better use your strengths. Now it is becoming increasingly accepted that, mainly, the best investment of your time is on leveraging your strengths more than trying to fix your weaknesses. A shift in attitude.

Whether you are capable or not, believe in yourself or not, may be considered a truth – or an attitude. There are some relative truths that affect self-belief: a man who is 155 cm tall is highly unlikely to play professional basketball. And, some accepted truths are “broken”, witness the Olympic runner hopeful with prosthetic legs, or the blind piano player in the prestigious Arthur Rubinstein competition.

So back to us mere mortals. What is your attitude in the pursuit of your goals, whatever your goals may be? How might focusing on your strengths be helpful? How might focusing on your potential, rather than bemoaning past performance, move you forward? What if you strove for excellence rather than perfection? What other questions can you think of that will widen your perception of yourself, to shift your attitude, to achieve success – whatever success may be for you.