There are many misconceptions about the word “Attitude” although we use loosely in many occasions. The Oxford dictionary meaning of attitude is “fixed way of thinking”; if you look at the thesaurus in MSWord, you will find the synonyms as approach, outlook, mindset, way of thinking, opinion, point of view and so on. The great thinker and change Leader Joel Barker founded the idea of “Paradigm shift” in the early nineties. He coined the word “Paradigm” which has the synonyms such as concept, hypothesis, theory and idea. The attitude is our mental map of anything in life which governs all our actions. Another word for attitude is “paradigm” as they are synonymous to each others. If you agree with this definition, I will proceed further to analyse how this has anything to do with what we achieve in our life.
First of all, I wish to deal with what is the origin of our attitude or paradigms. Attitude among the various other aspects is only applicable to human species and not the prerogative of animals. We never say that “this dog does not have the right attitude!!” All animals are guided by instincts and hence have no ability to form mental maps like us. I have dealt with the major difference between human beings and the animals in many of my topics in this blog. Human beings have been bestowed with the higher intelligence called "rationale", the ability to discriminate good from the bad which distinguishes us from the animals. It is this distinction that made us different from the stereotyped behaviour we find in the animals.
Interestingly, by virtue of this ability, we have one distinction from animals; that is called “Conditioning”. For example, we can be conditioned to identify ourselves with a religion where as I cannot make my pet Max (my lovely dog) to follow my religion! This is due to the fact; the animals have no rationale to get conditioned. Then, what is conditioning? Conditioning is nothing but creating a “mental map” or “paradigm” by repeated bombardment of ideas. For example, a militant is conditioned to develop an animosity over a country or a race. The religious belief itself is a conditioning. It is not to whom we have born decided our religion; it is the conditioning made us to believe our religion. For example, if a child born to a Hindu is brought up in a Christian family will follow Christianity.
Sigmund Freud, the famous psycho analyst of modern times formulated the process of “conditioning”. According to him repeated statements to a human being creates a belief; reinforcing the belief creates an attitude – the mental map. When we were very young below the age of 10, we are susceptible for parental or social conditioning. At this age, we have no wisdom to challenge the inputs rationally. This may be the reason; the militant organizations choose younger generations for conditioning them as suicide bombers etc. In essence, conditioning is the process and attitude – the way of seeing things is the result. There is no right or wrong attitude; never the less some attitudes produce positive outcome and some don’t.
Our ability and attitude are two different things that make us to progress in life. One may have ability but may have wrong attitude which may become an impediment for achieving success in life. For example, I have come across people who have tremendous ability in their technical skills but have wrong attitude of instigating people around them against the organization they work for.
The above discussion has helped us to define what is attitude; it is nothing but the metal map we carry about an object, a situation, a scenario, a person or anything else in life. This mental map is not the same for all human beings; for example one feels drinking alcohol is bad, and another feels it is a relaxant! Then where does these attitude - mental maps come from? It is the result of the “conditioning”. What is the big deal about knowing this? Strangely, all our actions are stemming from our attitude – the mental map! For example, we seek for meditation or alcohol for relaxation as per our mental map! The actions are the result of our attitude. Hence, we cannot ignore this root of all our actions.
Let’s examine little more about this monster “attitude” which plays havoc in our life with my own life history:
I grew up in a family where my father was a dominating figure whom people were afraid of approaching. Watching him from my childhood, I have been conditioned to an idea (attitude / paradigm) “I have to be rude with the people by default if I want to command respect and control them”. This is an unconscious process as mental maps are created without your consent till you recognize their destructive behaviour. I managed to survive carrying with this mental map till it became the “show stopper” in my career. My mentor once told me that if I have to retain my promotion, I need to re-calibrate my paradigm.
He gave me a very simple target saying “If you want to retain your elevated position, you will have to prove to me that everyone tells me that you are an excellent guy”. He also gave a tip that the only way you can build relationship is by grabbing the opportunity to help people. It is ridiculously simple to know that no one likes a rude behaviour from another person which I got away with for many years till I was brought back to ground realities by my mentor.
It took quite some time and efforts for me to be a different person as I was getting away with my nasty behaviour with people. When I manifested with a different behaviour, people were uncomfortable as they have formed a mental map about me! It was a tough job changing my image as it is not only working with my paradigm and it is also working on others paradigms as well!
My autobiography must have helped you to appreciate the concept of attitude and its effect of what we achieve in our life.
What is the main Point?
Some of us perennially have a positive outlook of life and some of us have pessimistic view. For example some of us feel that “Life is sport” and we have to play with a sportsman’s attitude and some of us feel “Life is war” and you have to fight to survive! I feel that the attitude is the root and the result is the fruit. If the root is not strong the fruit cannot be good. If any of the outcomes is undesirable, we need to look at closely what is our attitude?
The great guru and thinker of modern times Swami Sukabodananda has beautifully explained the effect of attitude in his lecture titled as “ABCD” and I wish to cover the gist of his thoughts here with my own examples:
All our actions are emanating from our attitude – our mental map. In ABCD “A” stands for “Attitude”. The attitude is compared to the philosophy which cannot be experimentally proved as “which is right and which is wrong?” For example, you may believe in the theory of “Advaida” which says that “you and God are one and the same”. Alternatively, you may believe in “Dvida” philosophy which says that “you and God are different”.
In both Advaida and Dvaida philosophy, there cannot be a proof before you follow them, as philosophy can never be proved! As you have seen from my own life history, I believed that “you have to be rude to people to control them!” Attitude is purely a hypothesis which has no rationale to prove it is right or wrong.
In ABCD approach “B” stands for belief. B stems from A, which means that the attitude manifests in many beliefs. If you believe in Dvaida philosophy of Adi Shankara, you will believe that you should be compassionate to all living beings; you must be helpful and so on. You may say that Attitude is the cause and belief is the effect.
In ABCD approach “C” stands for commitment which means that you will be willing to sacrifice for the sake of your belief. Commitment is “how far you are willing to go to achieve your belief”
In ABCD approach “D” stands for dedication in your action for the philosophy you believe in. The dedication is always seen in action where the fuel is coming from the attitude.
You will find from the above explanation that each one has the cause and effect relationship and ultimately the root cause of everything is “Attitude” which means what is our mental map of “that”?
If our attitude is positive, the results are positive and our mental map is negative, then the results are negative. This proves the point that if you need a better result in your life; you need to examine what is your attitude towards it.
Examples can be multiplied; but the main point is, our destiny in life is decided by our attitude – the mental map we carry about anything in life. Like a robot we carry on with our life without knowing what our attitude about anything in life is. Vast majority of us carry a negative attitude about many things which manifest in a negative outcome and we start blaming the outside factors when the root cause lies in our attitude which has produced the undesirable outcome. Unless we constantly examine where we are coming from and what is our paradigm about a given person, situation or an event, we have no redemption from the negative outcome at a later date.
I have titled this article as “Attitude – The root that bears the fruit” for the simple reason that “Attitude” is the root and the fruit is the outcome we enjoy in our life. Unless we straighten up the root, we cannot blame the fruit which is the result of the root.
- The attitude is nothing but our mental map of anything in life
- The attitude is the result of the conditioning
- Only human beings are susceptible for conditioning
- All our mental maps need not be favourable to us
- Vast majority of our attitudes are destructive to our life which we are
- We need to constantly examine our attitude and mend them
- All our actions are the result of our attitude; as the attitude, so the actions are;
- The ABCD explains the manifestation of our attitude
- If your commitments are low, that implies that your attitude is wrong
- Positive attitude produce positive results and negative attitude produce
- Don’t blame the external factors for unexpected results in your life; instead