Someone started a thread in the forum recently about attitude versus behaviour. Which comes first; having a great attitude, or taking action on something that will have a positive effect?
I’m not sure this is a matter of something coming first. It feels like it’s more of a blend of both these things, not necessarily in a particular order.
I know that for myself, if I feel lousy, forcing myself to smile certainly does something to my mental state. It’s as though the physical action of smiling ignites patterns within my subconscious; when I am smiling, I am supposed to be happy. It creates a palatable conflict within my conscious self, as though I’m hot-wiring my brain to adopt an amended behaviour.
Let’s face it, everyone would rather be happy. But when you’re feeling down, sometimes you can’t help exuding your crappy state of mind onto other people. It’s like being caught in a wagon barreling down a hill. But when you force yourself to smile, it’s like you’re digging in your heels or applying the brakes. It feels alien. Your body resists it. You end up feeling silly. But I guess that’s the point.
Just this morning, I felt myself getting completely overwhelmed. Stuck in the house. Piles of unfolded clothes. Messy house. Too much junk. Too much bad news in the world. Money stress. Health stress. Existential stress. The wagon was just a-hurtlin’ on down.
I forced a smile. At first, it was like nails on a chalkboard. My brain actually tried to make me feel stupid. “You look silly,” it said. “This does not match how you feel. Stop fooling yourself.
But it shifted my thinking.
When I passed my wife in the hall, I told her how much I loved her. She smiled back at me. The wagon was slowing down.
When you’re headed down the hill, you tend to drag others with you. It’s easy to do that, because gravity offers less resistance for those going downhill. Going uphill is more work. Always has been. But the top of the hill is so much nicer than the bottom. You see so much more. The air is so much crisper at the top of the hill. And when you’re up there, you are better positioned to pull others up to be with you and enjoy the view.
I’m not sure if there’s a “sequence” to behaviour versus attitude. I think changing your attitude is a behavioural action unto itself. It takes work.
In other words, I think any effort you put into shifting your state of mind toward the positive rather than letting the wagon fly down the hill, encourages others to do the same.
The real challenge is getting this to happen when you’re in a really poor state of mind. It’s easier when the hill isn’t all that steep. But when you’re wagoning down the triple black diamond trail, it takes everything you’ve got to dig in and shift your thinking.
But in the end, it’s so worth it. The world has enough people flying down the hill. It needs more folks standing at the top, pulling upward. And if you can start the momentum in the opposite direction just by turning that frown upside down, that seems to be a manageable sacrifice to make.