Inside a person's head are two voices. One voice sees the world through a positive perspective and speaks all the good about each situation. The other voice sees the world from a negative perspective and speaks all the bad about each situation.
One cannot eliminate the negative or positive voice entirely, but one can learn to turn them up or down. Winners consistently turn up the positive voice and turn down the negative voice, leading to a healthy, positive attitude. Others do the opposite, turning up the negative voice and turning down the positive voice. Not surprisingly, these people struggle with their attitudes.
Most people who struggle with attitudes do so because they are wired with the negative voice shouting and the positive voice whispering at them.
Zig Ziglar compares the voices we hear in our heads to visiting a bank with a positive and negative bank teller. As the owner of your mind, you have complete control over all withdrawals and most deposits. The deposits represent your experiences in life. The withdrawals determine your success and happiness. Just as in the real cash bank, you can't withdraw anything that hasn't been deposited.
For each transaction, you have a choice of which teller to use. Confront the negative teller with a problem and he will remind you how poorly you performed in the past. He will assess your current problem and predict failure. Confront your positive teller and he will enthusiastically recall how you successfully dealt with far more difficult problems in the past. He will give you examples of your skill and genius and assure you that you can easily solve this problem.
Both tellers are right because, as Henry Ford so famously said, whether you think you can or you think you can't, so it is.
How does listening to a voice make any difference in the situation? In truth, the voice doesn't change the facts; however, it can radically change how a person responds to them.
Stewart Robertson, author of The Book of Reframes, describes two ways to change how a person views a situation through what he calls reframing. A person can change either the content or the context of a situation by reframing how he thinks about it. Robertson says, "Content reframing is changing the meaning of a behavior to help you see the good side and appreciate the otherwise unlovely character. Context reframing is finding a way to make an event or behavior to be represented in such a way that it would have value no matter how negative you think it might be."
The positive voice reframes potential negative events into empowering positive viewpoints, while the negative voice frames everything into disempowering viewpoints. Columnist Mary Hunt shares a powerful story of reframing on the website Creators Syndicate:
Years ago, my husband and I decided not to replace my car once the lease was up. The plan was that because we work together, we would share his car until we could pay cash for a second car. We figured that would take six months or so.
I won't say this new arrangement was enjoyable. Actually, I hated it. I felt as if I'd lost my freedom. My wings were clipped; no more spontaneity for me. If I wasn't being "chaperoned" as a passenger in my husband's car, I was having to ask permission to borrow it. Let me just put it this way: I was not the most pleasant passenger.
We'd been commuting together for about three months when I realized that it wasn't the situation that was intolerable. It was me. I was making myself miserable, not recognizing that the nicest guy in the world was willing to take me anywhere I wanted to go, anytime I wanted to get there. I was ungrateful and horribly self-centered. I needed an attitude change, and I needed it quickly.
I decided I had to reframe my thinking, because the situation wasn't going to change anytime soon. I decided that rather than a pathetic, dependent child, I would see myself as a woman of privilege. I have a driver!
Every day, I am driven back and forth to work, during which time I am free to chat, read, write, think, knit, or nap. I never have to wash a car. I don't have to pump gas into it, insure it, register it, or have it smogged (a California thing)—all because my driver is also my maintenance man. When I need to go in a different direction, I get a rental car, which allows me to try out some brand new fancy cars and get my fix behind the wheel. See? A different way of looking at the same situation.
When Mary listened to her negative voice, she framed the events negatively in content ("I am a pathetic, dependent child") and in context ("My husband is too cheap to buy me my own car"). It was only after she disciplined her thinking, turning down the volume of the negative voice and turning up her positive voice, that she framed the events positively in content ("I have my own personal driver") and context ("I get more time with my husband while saving time and money").
It may be easier to listen to the negative voice, but it's much harder to live with the results. It takes practice to habitually turn down the negative voice, seeking instead the teller with the positive voice, but it must be done in order to develop a positive mindset.
Leaders are perpetual reframers of events, both for themselves and for their organizations. Our lives can be fundamentally changed, leading us to experience joy instead of misery, through the power of reframing. For the joy or misery experienced isn't in the event itself, but in the mindset chosen to define it.
ORRIN WOODWARD is coauthor of the bestseller
Launching a Leadership Revolution and the newly released
Living Intentionally for Excellence. Together with Chris Brady,
he leads a network marketing organization of several tens of
thousands of people. Their common goal is to raise the level
of professionalism and leadership in network marketing.