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Viewpoint: Attitude drives behavior

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As an individual mobilization augmentee chaplain and a senior pastor of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., I have seen attitude drive behavior. A person's body language is a result of their mental attitude. By choosing your attitude you get in that mood and send out a message that everyone understands, consciously or unconsciously.

I'm reminded of one of my backfill assignments where I saw the attitude of a fellow chaplain totally metamorphosis the attitude of our entire chapel staff team in a positive way (especially me). It was when a new wing commander came in and changed a ceremony that we had been working on for months in a matter of days. When Chaplain Barkley shared the information with us, we all hit the roof. He allowed us to vent for about ten minutes, never saying a word. Finally, he says "there's a reason why the ceremony we attended a few days ago is called a change of command." We thought about that for a few moments and that the biggest load of the work was going to be on Chaplain Barkley's shoulders; and, if he still had a good attitude, then so should we.

Almost always, you have a choice as to what attitude to adopt. There is nothing in any normal work situation that dictates you must react one way or another. If you feel angry about something that happens, for instance, that's how you choose to feel. Nothing in the event itself makes it absolutely necessary for you to feel that way. It is your choice. And since you do have a choice, most of the time you'll be better off if you choose to react in a positive rather than a negative way.

There is power in a positive attitude. It is not what happens to you that counts; it is how you react to what happens to you, especially when the unexpected happens. We must learn and master powerful strategies that we can use to keep ourselves thinking and acting positively and creatively.

A positive attitude even means longer life. Researchers from two American universities followed and studied 1,500 people for seven years. All 1,500 were in good health when the study started. Researchers followed how they aged by measuring such things as weight loss, walking speed, exhaustion and the strength of their grip.

What exactly did they discover? They found that people who maintained a positive attitude were significantly less likely to show signs of aging; they were less likely to become frail and were more likely to be stronger and healthier than those that had a negative attitude. If you have a doom and gloom attitude you're actually killing yourself and at the very least, your negative attitude is just making you weaker. If you want to live a longer healthier life, then you need to develop and maintain a positive attitude - it's now a fact thanks to the study.

Researchers found that positive thinking and attitude improved a person's health because it made it likely that they would succeed in life. So, not only will a positive attitude help you be healthy and live longer - but it also increases the likelihood that you will succeed.

Lead researcher Dr. Glenn Ostir explained it this way: "I believe that there is a connection between mind and body - and that our thoughts and attitudes and emotions affect physical functioning, and overall health, whether through direct mechanisms, such as immune function, or indirect mechanism, such as social support networks."

Attitudes are also infectious. Your attitude is the first thing people pick up on in face-to-face communication. Just as laughing, yawning, and crying are infectious. Before you say a word, your attitudes can be infected by another person's attitude, and vice versa. When you are operating from inside a really useful attitude, such as enthusiasm, curiosity and humility, your body language tends to take care of itself and send out unmistakable signals of openness.