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All About You: How’s your attitude?

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Eeyore is a donkey in Disney’s beloved “Winnie-the-Pooh” animated series. Eeyore is perpetually miserable, with a markedly negative attitude. Near the end of one episode, he says, “Nothing to do … and no hope of things getting better. Sounds like Saturday night at my house.” Although his downcast demeanor is endearing on screen, and all the other characters feel affection for Eeyore, in the real world, he’d be pretty depressing to be around.

We’ve all known or worked with an “Eeyore.” I have. Let’s call him “Edward.” He was a fellow safety and health trainer with whom I worked with for nearly three years. Edward complained about every situation and derided the most mundane things. I believe that, like Eeyore, he got some sense of satisfaction from being miserable and complaining. But as a firsthand observer, I’m sure of this: It hurt his career, relationships and ability to enjoy many positive aspects of his life.

Your attitude matters. That’s because it determines the way you address or feel about something, which in turn will directly affect your behavior. For example, if you have a negative attitude about exercising, it’s less likely you’ll work out. Your attitude also affects your judgment. Going into a meeting with a negative attitude can give you a strong confirmation bias, one that spurs you to be unreasonable and argumentative. And your general attitude about life can tarnish or brighten your day-to-day experience.

How to improve your attitude

Social scientists and researchers have discovered that all of us have an emotional baseline. Some people naturally have a happier attitude than others. Our environment and habits can change that and move our baseline up or down. One powerful environmental contributor to your mindset is the people you interact with regularly. If they’re cheerful, you’re more likely to be cheerful; if they’re miserable, it’ll push you to feel the same.

Because who we “hang out with” has a strong influence on our attitude, as harsh as it may sound, avoiding “Eeyores” when we can is wise and ancient advice. This is also why having a mentor you interact with regularly can help you grow in your career as a safety and health professional and in developing your overall character. My mentor and longtime friend still helps me improve in a wide variety of ways.

The power of deliberate thoughts

You have three main types of thoughts. One of them: random thoughts that appear for no apparent reason. I practice mindful meditation, which I recommend. After I settle onto my pillow and begin noticing my breathing for a bit, random thoughts pop into my mind. Often, they’re about something I plan to do later in the day or something recent that has happened to me, but I never know why a category of thought shows up. There’s not much you can do about these kinds of thoughts.

Then there are stimulated thoughts – those brought about by your environment. You peel an orange and it reminds you of summer camp when you were a child. Or you see a bill lying on the kitchen table and you think about your bank account. These thoughts you don’t have much power over either.

Deliberate thoughts, however, you can control, and they’re the ones that can mold your attitude. When I wake up, the first thoughts I have may occur spontaneously. Sometimes I wake up with anxious thoughts. But after a moment, I can purposefully create thoughts that are encouraging and inspire me. I tell myself, “It’s going to be a beautiful day to be alive,” or something similar. Later, if I’m going to meet with a client or work on a project, I’ll deliberately think, “This is going to be a fun meeting” or “I’m going to like getting this project done today.”

You can do the same. Before conducting a jobsite inspection, tell yourself, “I’m going to enjoy this, and I’ll have a good time with the crew.” Then, instead of showing up with an Eeyore demeanor, you’ll show up with a bright attitude – and maybe inspire others around you to do the same.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps safety professionals become better leaders through his keynotes, workshops, articles and books so they can create vibrant safety cultures. His popular “Mindfully Safe” keynote teaches employees how to focus better and improve their situational awareness, a key skill to preventing incidents. To contact Richard, visit makesafetyfun.com.

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