Sign Up For Tim’s Newsletter

How do I set Goals that Work?

And get these eBooks free of charge:

  • "How Do I Set Goals That Work?"
  • "The 50 Greatest Motivational Quotes Of All Time" And Why"
  • "16 Ways to De-Stress Your Life"
  • "70 Amazing Facts About Your Brain"
  • and even more! (details here)
Discovering your core values is <i>the</i> most important thing you can do for yourself. Learn more.
Feeling stuck? See how Tim can help you get unstuck!

Catch Tim Around The Web

Get Every Blog Post Free

by RSS or by email


How To Change Your Attitude

After saying yesterday that I thought attitude was everything and suggesting it dictated the quality of our lives, I was put me on the spot to explain how a Professional Life Coach would help somebody change their attitude.

Well never one to back down from a challenge unless it involves a bottle of scotch a donkey and two nuns, I thought I’d have a bash at explaining how you tame the beast within.

Do You Believe You Can Change?

The starting point is to believe that you can change. If you don’t believe it, then you wont do it.

I’m not asking you to think it’s going to be easy or an overnight thing, just that in principal you’re up for the task.

The hardest clients that I have to deal with are ones that lack commitment and/or belief because most of my time is spent working on those issues and they are seldom the ones that prompted the contact.

The starting point after the original starting point that we just started is to understand that ALL your feelings stem from your thoughts.

If you are in a bad mood and Mr. or Mrs. Attitude has climbed onboard and taken over the controls, it’s because you invited them.

Take Responsibility

In all likelihood it was done at an unconscious level, so don’t start arguing with me just because you can’t remember thinking negatively before you hurled a tirade of abuse at the Jehovah’s Witness.

You can think very quickly and very efficiently at an unconscious level. You’ve had years and years of practice.

Imagine how good you would be if you did nothing but practice filleting fish 8 hours a day for 5 years? You’d be a fish filleter par excellence and people would be traveling from far and wide to see you remove dem bones, dem bones, dem, wet bones…probably.

Well forget the fish, because you’ve been practicing your thinking 24 hours per day for however many years you’ve been alive, so you’re even better at THAT.

There’s always stuff going on at an unconscious level unless you are either a very good meditator or a bit dead, so the practice keeps building on itself.

The act of being aware of your thinking is crucial to making changes but you have to start the intervention process by simply observing.

That’s right; just listen out for what you’re twittering on about when you’re feeling like the world is conspiring against you. It probably wont be good.

There are two approaches you can take. Actually that’s not true; there are lots, but only 2 that I recommend to help you change your thought process and your mood/attitude.

The first involves simply listening for neggy stuff and then backing up and replacing it with comments that you’d like your Granny to hear.

“Why has that bastard got 11 items in his basket when it’s a 10 items or less line” could be deleted and replaced by “Phew I’m glad I don’t eat what this guy eats, he’ll be dead in a month with coronary artery disease”

Maybe that’s not the best example because it’s still a tad attitudey, but you get the idea. What you replace it with really depends on your personality and what makes you feel comfortable.

Here are a few examples, some of which may work for you, some of which may not:

  • This guy has been put here to teach me patience
  • I am so happy to be alive when so many people are dead and some of them have been dead for decade’s even centuries. That’s really tough
  • Great, I have chance to read one of these highly informative and caring tabloid newspapers

Even though this could win the 2008 International Award for Glaringly Obvious Things To Do, it still amazes me how many people never try it. Or maybe it doesn’t, because there will be precious little instant gratification and that’s usually what people want, me included.

It’s not technical stuff and it’s not hard, but it does take persistence and commitment.

The more you do it, the more you spot yourself saying all sorts of weird and wonderful things.

Each time, you get to back up, delete what you said, and replace it with something that serves you and makes you as happy as the Gator mistakenly invited by a short-sighted administrator to be a pat dog in the chicken hospital.

Ask Yourself Questions

If you don’t like that method you can try the questioning yourself method. This is my favorite hence I wrote an entire book on the damn things.

However, the type of questions you chose is critical. Apart from the obvious things not to ask yourself like “Should I punch this guy or just accidentally knock his basket to the floor and then punch him as he bends down?” you should also avoid questions that just aren’t you.

Don’t make them too contrived and have your unconscious sniggering behind your back. Here are a few examples to use or abuse at your leisure:

  • What else can this mean?
  • I wonder what his/her story is?
  • How can I benefit from this?
  • How can I make this more interesting?
  • What can I do differently to feel better?
  • How would I like to be treated in this situation?
  • What if that were my mom?

So there you have it. It’s not difficult to think of a question when you’re in a funk that will break your state and have you thinking differently. The real trick is deciding whether you can be bothered or not. Change is easy if the will is there, but it will require a lifetime of effort. Are you up for the challenge, or are you a wuss?

If you like this why not forward the link on to somebody else, subscribe to the RSS feed or just send me wads of cash and the deeds to your house. I’m not proud.

29 comments to How To Change Your Attitude

  • Well. Thank you Mr. Brownson. Finally something I can understand and even attempt to follow.

    My first tweet this morning: “shocked that it is already morning.”
    Delete, rewrite: “it’s a new day!”


    Seriously, thank you. I love the idea of deleting and rewriting all these negative thoughts in my head. It makes me feel IN CONTROL of my thoughts.

  • Love the attitude you put in your post Tim, nice how you give a smart ass kick in the pants to those who have “heard it all before”.

  • Ali

    Tim, thanks for addressing Vered’s point: I too agreed with your last post but wondered how the heck to go about changing my attitude (which has been, I must confess, Not Great recently.)

    I really will try to put into practice your advice above, especially regarding negative thoughts about other people/external events … I have a feeling it’s gonna be a long slog, though!


  • @ Vered – You’re welcome, now go and do it!

    @ Melissa – I have attitude about my post on attitudes, I like that.

    @ Ali – You may want to change that last sentence from “I have a feeling it’s gonna be a long slog, though!” to something more like “It’s a fun challenge that will make me feel great when I crack it” It’s all about what we say to ourselves.

  • Tim,

    I love the humor AND the edginess in this post. It’s just you being you and it works.

    Melissa, I agree that weather we’ve heard something before or not, we’re much more likely to remember a concept when it’s compared to, say… a gator at a chicken hospital :) Nothin’ like laughing and learning!

  • Number 1: BELIEVE you can change! I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Would you believe that I was just in the grocery store with 12 items and waited on the LONG line instead of just trying to get away with standing on the 10 items or less line? What does that say about me? I guess I just didn’t want anyone criticizing the food I was buying. ;) My grandma would have been proud.

    But seriously, I love your strategies, Mr. Tim and I think that actually do practice what you are teaching. I often attempt to turn a potentially aggravating situation into a positive experience! All by self talk…or action. Usually, I will pick up one of those magazines and read them while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store. It passes the time and I don’t think about how much I need to get back to my computer.

    I love the second strategy as well! I often will wonder what someone’s story is. Especially when they are driving like a maniac near me or cut me off. I’ll usually think, “Perhaps their wife is having a baby and they have to get to the hospital pronto.” Or perhaps I’ll think, “Maybe their mother is sick and they have to get to her house right away.” This kind of thinking often settles the mind and helps alleviate my own stress.

    Thanks for this funny and insightful look at how changing your attitude can certainly decrease stress levels!

    Dr. KC

  • The number one thought I exercise when someone (especially a stranger) bugs me in some way is:

    I do not know this person or why it is that they are doing that, so why I am being so quick to judge them?

    I never think through that entire sentence and it’s not self-critical, it just takes the conviction out of any negative thought I have for that girl who has her music on too loud on the bus or that guy who’s standing beside me under the bus shelter smoking.

    I find it’s quite effective.

  • Tim I really do love the edge and the attitude. keep cranking it out without holding back. I think we could start a club. :) But what would Groucho say about that?

    Seriously you have written an excellent primer here and it all comes down to first being aware and catching ourselves
    in the stinking thinking.

    I use something kind of like what Richard does. When I observe really provoking behavior in another I just say to myself. “That’s me too. I’ve acted like an ass lots of times, maybe he’s having a tough time. I’ll cut him some slack.”

  • @ Ken- Thaanks for the support mate, it’s appreciated!

    @ Doc KC – That actually happened to me trying to follow an ambulance across London after my dad had a stroke that he never recovered from. I know the abuse that was hurled at me wouldn’t have been if they had known why I was driving so erratically.

    @ Richard – Anything that breaks the state and does the job is good enough.

    @ Tom – Yeh I know we wouldn’t want to join any club that would have us as members ;-) As a Brit I can stand aloof from the electoral process but not so aloof that I want another 4 years of Republicanism!

  • Robert

    I like this topic a lot. After spending some time on this myself for a while, I fully agree with everything here. We follow the same habit or thinking day after day whether good or bad. It will remain that way until it’s recognized and retrained to the desired result.

  • I love how you can teach such wisdom while making me laugh out loud with your wit :)

    I agree that it takes persistance and commitment becuase it was only until I promised myself to keep challenging negative thoughts with better ones have I noticed my stress level literally decrease (I suffer bad headaches when deeply stressed and solved it with ice cream for .. sugar headaches and deep sleep. I know.. not good)

    I even would ‘catch myself’ if I was in negative thought for 10 minutes.. maybe longer and say ‘HEY HEY JEMi.. don’t forget .. better thoughts’

    and now they come quicker.

    You’re right.. we have a LOT of practice with thinking. I know I do.. I overanalyze for fun.

    Your questions method resonates very well with me and so thats another thing I do.

    Excellent post oh favorite life coach :)

  • This is a fabulous article…as I sit here on a rainy Seattle morning I realize I am very blessed to have read it, as I woke up a bit cranky and pessimistic.

    I will remember that example of the fish filleter and remind myself that someday being positive will be as simple as just removing “dem bones” hahahahahaaha…

    Love it!

    Great write :D

  • @ Robert – You hit the nail on the head there about recognizing habits. Sometimes people don’t change them because they don’t really know they have them or that there is a choice.

    @ JEMi – I’m blushing! Thanks for the feedback that mean a lot coming from one of my favorite bloggers!

    @ Dr Nicole – Thanks a lot from another of my top bloggers. Do they do any other days than rainy days in Seattle? ;-)

  • rn.elizabeth

    Here is an example from nursing school. A classmate, Sue, was working with a nurse who would not let her do anything. We are there to practice skills, observed by the nurse but sometimes old nurses don’t like or don’t trust students. Anyway Sue became so frustrated she took on new patients the next day just so she could work with a different nurse. I transfered in from a different floor, so the instructor gave me Sue’s old patients to work with. This nurse would not let me do anything either, but instead of getting frustrated I said to myself, ” I want to learn what this nurse is willing to teach me.” By the end of the day, I learned many little tricks and details that I wouldn’t have otherwise AND I was ready to take on a bigger role. This was the last step I needed to see the big picture, well worth my time.

    Guess I have a good attitude to begin with.

  • @ Elizabeth – Great story and a perfect example how to use the situation to your own advantage rather than fighting it. Thanks for that!

  • I am only commenting right now to prove that every now and again, someone comes via SU and actually sticks around to comment.

    I have nothing intelligent to add.

  • Here’s what I’m thinking…I wonder how many people who have read this type of informative and helpful advice and still act like jerks or act like the world is picking on them? I also wonder how many bloggers out there who give the same advice but don’t practice what they preach?

    With all the Dr. Phil and Oprah Show, the Zen Habits blogs, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the New Testament, how in the world can we have so many people who are too wrapped up in negativity? I just don’t get it. Every successful businesspersons, athletes, and artists say that one of the reasons they are successful is becuase their ability to be positive. We’ve read it. We’ve heard it. Why can’t we just do it!

    Just my thoughts…

  • Sean

    Dear Tim, is there a preferred book you could recommend based on the subject of changing my attitude?
    Kind Regards

  • @ Chris – No idea how I missed your comment buddy, sorry about that. You raise a really interesting point as always and I honestly don’t know the answer to it. You’re right it seems obvious but so few people do it. I guess it could be apathy, reluctance to change, thinking it only applies to other people or maybe a combination of all those and other factors too.

    If you do find out the reason, let me know ;-)

    @ Sean – Wow that’s a tricky one mate. I think Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits’ is a good starting point but there are literally hundreds. I think the fact that you want to improve is 90% of the deal. If you have a dig around here you’ll find a lot of stuff that may be useful. The other option if you have the money is to get yourself a coach! There are lots of great coaches that can help you.

  • Hi Tim. Good stuff here!

    For sure, being aware of your thoughts is the first step. And asking questions will take you a long way in changing your perspective.

    Curiosity is the spark that starts the fire, or sheds light on things. Each question opens a new window or vintage point to view things from.

  • @ Davina – Thanks for that and I agree curiosity is MASSIVE. Where would we be without? Probably living in caves and grunting a lot ;-)

  • “Don’t click here”

    It worked.

    I did.

    And, here I am.

  • dishthehappyfish

    I remember years of looking for the good stuff, and remaining positive, making jokes and saying thank you, even to myself or the universe…whoever. It got me nowhere. I did get taken advantage of a lot.

  • Sunil

    Due to recession, I have been affected. I questioned myself “What becomes important at this stage to overcome – is it motivation or attitude?
    Your article mentions the starting point as a belief to change. If you don’t believe it, then you wont do it. Obviously I got the answer – it is attitude first.
    Thanks for the article

  • It is true that the perception of every being about self and about others are judged keeping in view their own benefits and their limitations.
    Attitude also changes as per the context and according to the rising situations and people tend to follow the same to be satisfied and prove that they are the person with right attitude at right time.
    Too difficult to have unanimous attitude on the same topic but yes if you have the best convincing power surely your situation and standby would be “Win-Win”

  • Joe m

    to be honest with you,it didnt help me much, i thought those were quite silly and who is actually going to stop and think these things to themselves when somebody is making you angry? your too busy dealing with the task at hand.

  • Reading about this, I do have an opinion. It’s a good starting point but the example is a little bit off. For example, no one can be happy that someone has 11 items in a 10 item express checkout. It is rude for that person to do that and maybe it should be pointed out to him. I think that if you can make a commitment to not be a rude person and think of others’ this kind of thing wouldn’t happen. You are right and it does start with changing your attitude, but people specifically in America need to stop being so rude! Sometimes the right thing to do is to point out their negligence. Maybe the next time they buy groceries they will be like “hey i def. don’t want to be confronted by this crazy lady, so I will not be going to the express lane.” I change of thought can happen sometimes u have to nudge others even if its not ur business in the first place..

  • Anita

    Many years I learned something about changing my attitude. Back when my son was a baby he was up every 2 hours day and night. Night after night… month after month! One particular night I was extremely tired and cranky myself (no sleep does that to you) and as I sat in the dark with the baby it hit me that I should relish every single moment of that time because someday I would not have him to hold in my lap and cuddle. Honestly, in that instant my time with him because a treasure. It altered how I viewed the situation. Still was tired and cranky but it was more tolerable.

    I gained the power of seeing how my thoughts could change my life. Just changing my perspective changed my attitude, which changed my circumstances, which changed my life… at least a little.

    There was nothing involved in “believing” I could change anything. That did not enter into the equation. When you change, alter or readjust your perspective it can lead to a better situation and who doesn’t want things better?

    Obviously you can use the same principle for other things in life that are challenging, aka “driving you up the wall”. For me first step to changing my attitude is to just stop and look at how I am reacting to a situation. Examine the situation rather than react and then rethink it. It gives you a chance to take control of life.

    • @ Anita – I wasn’t trying to suggest peoples attitudes don’t change unless they believe they can, of course they do. I meant somebody setting out to consciously change their attitude by reading a blog post is unlikely to achieve it unless they think they can.

      Thanks for your story, interesting stuff and well done on making your own changes.