Mike Oster’s It Starts With Attitude: How to Live in a Place Where Excellence Becomes Our Average is a practical yet inspirational guide to how we can all live happier lives simply by adjusting our attitudes. And who doesn’t need an attitude adjustment? As Mike reveals in these pages, 77 percent of our self-talk is negative, and an estimated 75 to 98 percent of all mental and physical problems are the result of our negative thinking.
In other words, our attitudes are affecting our lives, and usually not in positive ways. Of course, we can’t go from negativity to positivity in an instant, which is precisely why this book will be a godsend to so many. Just like you can’t become a bodybuilder or a rocket scientist overnight, but need to work at it one day at a time, so It Starts With Attitude provides us with tools that will allow us to strengthen our “attitude muscle” on a daily basis so we become better equipped not only to cope with, but to find opportunities in daily unexpected events.
As Mike points out, it’s easy to want to be a positive or optimistic person. It’s a lot harder when we’re stuck behind a slow driver, when we receive bad news, or when we have to deal with irritating people. It is those unexpected situations that arise that throw us off our positivity game. But Mike shares how, instead of instantly reacting with anger, frustration, or negativity, we can pause and choose to see the opportunity and the options that lie before us in a situation. When we learn to pause, we discover, as Mike says, “We have numerous opportunities every day to choose our attitude.” We can do it when the driver in front of us doesn’t turn right at a red light. We can do it when our children don’t listen to us. We can do it in countless situations that we can make better just by choosing the right attitude.
Mike goes into the full details of how to make these choices, and I don’t want to give away all his invaluable tools here, but I’ll share that one aha moment for me was his discussion of cognitive distortions-this is when we distort what is real by making assumptions, exaggerating situations, and yes, blowing things out of proportion until we create an atmosphere of negativity. I know I have done this in my own life. For example, I hate when people are late. I have a family member who is always late. When this family member doesn’t arrive on time, I start to seethe with frustration. By the time the person shows up, maybe only two minutes late, I can be as mad as if they did not show up at all, and I can let them have it too, just over two minutes because I am remembering the time they were twenty minutes late on Christmas, and I just haven’t let it go. Fortunately, I’ve learned to get better about this, but my point is that we all do things like this-exaggerate situations to be far worse than they are. We drop a jar on the floor that shatters and we act as if the world is coming to an end, when we can easily clean up the mess in a few minutes, and maybe an opportunity exists here to learn to buy plastic rather than glass containers going forward.
Mike has numerous stories he shares in these pages of similar situations and the many times he’s been able to see an opportunity in a difficulty, or face his fears to create a positive outcome, or spread positivity in people’s lives just by doing something like thanking a waiter for excellent service.
Complimenting people and learning how to accept compliments are other ways we can develop a better attitude. Mike believes it’s important to look for opportunities where we can make people feel good. He also points out the importance of accepting compliments about ourselves rather than just dismissing them, which only makes the complimenter feel bad. He observes that it takes five to seven compliments to overcome the effects of one criticism or insult, so it’s about time we all start complimenting and verbally appreciating one another more.
It Starts With Attitude is full of other stories and useful strategies, but I’ll just end with mentioning one other key part Mike offers about improving our attitudes. We are happier when we feel we have purpose, when we are living out our intentions, setting goals and seeing them being accomplished. Countless authors have talked about goals before, and most of us are familiar with the SMART goals acronym. Mike is a firm believer in it, but he has a new twist on SMART goals worth reading and applying to our lives when setting those goals that will make our success more likely, and consequently, our attitude better.
Ultimately, Henry Ford was right when he said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Our attitude determines our success and our happiness. If you want to be happy and successful, I recommend you read It Starts With Attitude. Not only is it a short, quick, and easy read, but you will find your life changes exponentially with the effort you put into applying the advice and tools Mike offers. Don’t be surprised if soon people say to you, “I like your attitude,” and want to know how they can get what you’ve got.