“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz
The quote above, by one of the greatest football coaches and motivators to ever open their mouth, is one of my favorite all-time quotes. And for someone who has collected and rejoiced over quotes her whole life, that’s saying something! What I appreciate so much about this quote by Lou Holtz is the fact that it shows us how VERY much in control we are of our lives.
Our ability may be limited in certain areas, our motivation may wane, but our attitude can carry us home. You could say that our attitude determines our position at the bird feeder station. My husband knows what an avid bird (and butterfly) watcher I am. So he set my computer workstation up near a window in our home. In my view from the window, he set up a mack-daddy bird feeding station – hummingbird feeder, finch feeder, songbird feeder, water dishes… the whole 9 yards. I’ve placed beautiful potted plants and flowers around the area, too, so it’s a beautiful relaxing “eye vacation” as work online.
The birds like to “position” for the top perch on the black iron frame. Mockingbirds, doves, blackbirds, and cardinals desire this perch most of all. One would think that the blackbirds or the doves (the largest) would win every time.
The bird that I see perched at the top more often than not is a tiny little hummingbird, looking around, guarding the red nectar…. something the other birds don’t even want! The attitude of these tiny birds makes them a gazillion times their actual size. By the same token, our attitude can make us a gazillion times our actual size.
Have you ever thought about your mental attitude?
Think of Mental Fitness as one of Life’s Majors. Physical Fitness is another one of life’s majors – as well as relationships, self growth, physical health, etc.
The challenging thing is we have to major in each of these areas – the wonderful thing is we have our entire lives to complete the courses.
If Mental Fitness is a Major, guess what Mental Fitness 101 is….. Mental Attitude. That’s where it all begins, which is why I think this post is way, way, way past due. What have i been doing? If you say “Watching birds,” I’m just going to be hurt. Irregardless, if this were a perfect world, this would be the first post on this entire site.
If you desire a stronger mind, an improved memory, sharper reasoning skills, and more confidence, you can’t just jump into brain games and motivational articles and expect big wonders. That’s putting the cart before the horse, which is worthless – especially if the cart has apples, he’ll just eat them…
Think about your mental attitude. During the course of a day, which of these “affirmations” do you tell yourself most often?
- I can figure this out.
- I’m a complete idiot.
- My memory is getting so bad.
- I’m too old to figure that out.
- I can figure anything out.
- I don’t have nearly enough schooling for this.
- I have a lot of confidence in my mental abilities.
- I’m a ditz.
- I’m smart.
- I’m the sharpest knife in this drawer!
Hopefully you don’t spend a great deal of time beating yourself up, but unfortunately many people do. Sadly, they’re undermining their abilities to live up to their potential. They’re selling themselves short and standing in their own way of learning more, doing more, and living more.
If you recognize your own mental voice in any of the negative affirmations, I want you to realize something: The things we say to ourselves over and over again create a worn path in our minds and on our lives. In the way that the most frequently-traveled path in the woods will be the most worn, the most frequently-used thoughts will create the widest path in our minds.
Can you see how dangerous this could be if the path leads to the wrong place?!?! Can you see how amazing this could be if the path leads to the right place??!?!
That’s why we have to do all we can to watch which path our thoughts are paving. They’re more than just pathfinders, they’re pioneers. Please watch where they’re leading you and take the upper hand if you don’t like where they’re headed.
When it comes to our mental attitude, a lot has to do with our past. If any of the negative affirmations regularly play out in your own mind, I have great news for you… you can put an end to them! Simply find their source – where the negativity originated from. Below are a few of the main sources.
- Bad experiences in school. Many people allow poor grades, discouraging teachers, or bad test scores to set up a poor mental attitude. First of all, a great percentage of schooling and test success is simply memorization. The so-called mental aptitude tests aren’t nearly as accurate as their proponents would like you to believe and (thankfully!) you CANNOT judge an individual’s mental powers by any number of math tests. Besides, when we were in school, few of us gave as much attention to our studies as we did the opposite sex, our clothes, television, music, our cars, our hair, ballgames, pep rallys, and extra-curricular activities. I’ll be honest, improving my mind and learning were the furthest things from my teen-aged mind. Clothes, jewelry, my baby blue Ford Granada, and John Cougar Mellencamp were just about as far as my mind cared to go. Put your school history behind you – along with grades, tests, and dirty looks from the teachers. Banish them to the past along with the out-dated hairstyles!
- Negative words from others. This one has the potential to be the most destructive force in an individual’s life. We all have certain individuals in our lives who’s words carry an incredible amount of weight for us. Whether they’re parents, spouses, or other family members or friends. We all have people who we (mistakenly) use as mirrors. We THINK we are how they SEE us. For better or worse, that’s just not accurate… not even close! Even the people who are the closest to us don’t know all that we’re capable of. Sometimes they overestimate, sometimes they underestimate. They’re human beings, they aren’t mirrors. If someone who means the world to you – who’s opinion you hang the moon and stars on – has ever called you stupid, ditzy, air-headed, dumb, or uses you often as the butt of jokes (even if they honestly mean no malice with the jokes), they have the potential to destroy your mental attitude. Flat out destroy it.
If a parent or other loved one has left scars on your mental attitude with their words, the time has come to heal the wounds. Whether they’re in the room or not, say out loud, “You’re wrong about me!” Many times, people say things in anger that they honestly don’t mean. Unfortunately, when adults are mad, they resort to playground tactics and name-calling ensues.
Remember: Just because someone calls you a name doesn’t mean you have to wear it and just because they give you a label doesn’t mean you have to wear it.
If someone stuck a piece of paper to your back that said STUPID and told you to wear it for a whole day – unless there were $1,000,000 attached to the situation, you’d yank the label off and tell them where they could stick it…. for longer than just a day. Yet many of us will wear a negative, condescending “verbal” label for a lifetime. Why?!
Take off any and all labels that are negative and REFUSE to ever put them on again. Create your own labels and wear them instead. I don’t care if a parent or even a spouse has given you negative labels – I promise you you don’t have to wear them.
Another situation that can undermine a mental attitude is a financially challenged childhood. It’s my belief that children who are unusually poor tend to carry their share of issues into adulthood. Many of these kids grow up with an attitude of “I have to prove myself to everyone” – and they set off to do just that. These determined little guys and gals often grow into workaholics and, if they don’t ever feel “satisfied” that they’ve outgrown their childhood circumstances, they’ll often push themselves too hard and they’ll one day deal with stress problems, anxiety, and a host of other health problems.
Children who live through poverty often feel that they aren’t quite as smart as other kids. I know that’s outrageous. You know that’s outrageous. But children are very sensitive to feeling different – and the feelings that we have, even as very young children, tend to follow us all of our lives.
Adults who have had their mental attitude “bruised” by these sorts of lingering insecurities can, figuratively, set their child self down and have a good talk with them! When you realize how far you’ve come, the things you’ve accomplished (things that, at 7 years old no one would have given you a shot to be able to do), you’ll be able to see that your childhood didn’t weaken you at all – it gave you strength that you might not have had otherwise.
No matter what has caused your mental attitude to be less than best, take heart that it doesn’t have to stay like this. You can turn things around, starting today. This very premise is the foundation that this website (The Mental Fitness Center) and this blog (Out of Bounds) were built upon.
From Brain Builders by Richard Leviton:
Your brain, or what scientists like to call the 3-pound universe is the next frontier in human development. Your brain contains an estimated 100 billion neurons, or nerve cells, and is capable of outstanding feats of computation and information processing. Despite this wealth of potential brain power, most people use no more than about 4 – 10 percent of their possible brain capacity. The good news is that this is easily changed.
The truth of the mater is, you can increase your brain power… but you can’t put the cart before the horse. On this site, we talk at length about foods for brain health, overcoming anxiety, mental fitness, brain games, and a host of other self growth topics. I want you to realize, however, that none of these will benefit you until you have a healthy mental attitude.
You have to KNOW that you are capable of learning and capable of growing. You have to KNOW that you are worth it. Rip off the labels and never allow anyone or anything to ever “label” you again. If you allow negative labels to “stick” to you, it’ll be nearly impossible to grow out of their shadow.
Take them off. Bury them in the yard. Take that, name-callers and circumstances.
I have countless articles, exercises, and resources planned for Out of Bounds and The Mental Fitness Center, and I’m excited about the site’s growth.
Needless to say, I’m even more excited about our growth. So, what do you say? Let’s grow!
Make each moment count double,