The First Thing You Need To Change To Lead A More Successful, Happier Life

American motivational speaker and author Earl Nightingale (1927-1989) used to tell the following story …

A couple, she tired of the cold weather, he wanting to be able to fish year round, moved from Minnesota to a house across the street from him in Florida.

Several months went by.

Then, one day he noticed the couple was packing up to leave.

Nightingale walked across the street and asked the man why they were leaving.

The man told him they were moving because his wife "hates it here."

After a few questions as to why, the man revealed the reason his wife was so unhappy in her new neighborhood:

"She hasn't been accepted here," he said. "The other women in the community have left her strictly alone. She's made no friends. She hasn't been asked to participate in any of the community activities."

Nightingale thought for a moment and asked if she had let people know that she's interested in taking part in community activities.

The man thought for a moment and said, "No, she's been waiting for them to ask."

Nightingale's reason for telling this story is to demonstrate that, in life, whatever actions, feelings, or moods we convey to the world will be mirrored back to us.

He adds that while the women in the community should have reached out to the man's wife, they didn't because they thought she was reclusive. They thought she was someone who was not interested in making friends.

The community was giving her back a reflection of herself.

Nightingale relates this story (in his celebrated audio program "Lead the Field") to demonstrate a point that, in a large part, our attitude towards others, determines their attitude towards us. Our attitude is "our way of telling the world what we expect in return."

He goes on to talk about how the common denominator of all successful people is that each one possesses a great attitude.

No big surprise really.

People have been talking about the importance of having a positive attitude for years. Abraham Lincoln famously once said that "A man is about as happy as he makes his mind up to be." Winston Churchill is quoted as saying "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."

If one has a poor attitude about learning, chances are you'll be a poor learner. But, if you have a great attitude about learning, odds are you'll be a great learner.

In a nutshell, a poor attitude leads to poor results, a great attitude leads to great results.

So what actions, feelings, and moods do YOU convey to the world? Are they that of a successful, positive person who gets results for clients?

Or, does the world see you as someone who is unsure of themselves and lacks confidence in their abilities?

Or, does it vary day-to-day? One day you're up, the next you're down?

If you feel your attitude could use improving, I invite you to read and put into action the following 12 tips I've put together, for the most part based on Earl Nightingale's advice from "Lead the Field":

  1. Be thankful and always expect the best — Nightingale says his attitude starts with two words "Gratitude" and "Expectant." He was always extremely thankful to be waking up each morning and being able to continue the wonderful journey of life. He always expected the best. And, was excited that each day was another opportunity to move closer to achieving his goals.

  2. Remind yourself — Nightingale suggests putting a small sign on the bathroom mirror that says "Attitude" so you see it first thing each morning. Also put one in your car and your workplace. It might seem a little silly, but it works.

  3. Smile more — It's difficult to maintain a bad attitude if you have a big smile on your face. Plus, others are more likely to engage with a person who is smiling and cheerful versus one who is sullen and down. If you haven't read it yet, you might want to check out the article I wrote back in May of 2008 about the benefits of smiling. Click here to read it now.

  4. Act towards others how you would want them to treat you — Known as "The Golden Rule," it's the essential concept behind all human rights.

  5. Radiate success and well-being — Mentally become the person you wish to be. Develop an attitude like you are the most successful person in the world. Radiate success and well-being and good things will happen. Nightingale points out that most people wake up in the morning neutral when it comes to their attitude. Then they let external stimuli determine their attitude. If something good happens, their attitude improves. If something bad happens, their attitude plummets.

    For many, it's a dangerous cycle … when things go bad, their attitude worsens. This leads to them producing sub-standard results. And, it damages their attitude even further — leading them to producing even worse results. Super-successful people are different. They expect to win. If something bad happens, they shrug it off and keep moving forward. They know in their hearts that success and achievement is "the natural order of things."

  6. Don't let other people's poor attitudes affect you — Keep cool and keep smiling. If someone cuts you off in traffic, starts an argument with you, does something that irritates you, etc., stay positive. Don't react like they would. The only person your anger and hatred hurts is you.

  7. Forgive and forget — Forgive anyone whoever hurt you. Life's too short to harbor grudges. Mend fences, don't build walls.

  8. Forgive yourself — If you're tortured by the memory of missed opportunities and incidents when you demonstrated less than stellar behavior, let those memories go. Forgive yourself. Look to the future. Don't let your "yesterdays" drag down all of your "todays."

  9. Make all your thoughts constructive and positive — Always look for the best in people and ideas. As Anne Frank wrote in The Diary of a Young Girl, "I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains." Plus, always be in search mode for new ideas you can put to use in your life.

  10. Don't waste time talking about your problems with people who can't solve them — It's a waste of time and nobody wants to hear you whine on about your problems.

  11. Be proactive — Don't be like the lady in Nightingale's story who was waiting for the other ladies in the community to approach her. Be proactive. Be the one to act first. Get involved. Take action. Even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.

  12. Treat every person with whom you come in contact with as if they are the most important person on earth — Similar to #4, it takes it one step further. Nightingale says to treat every person you meet like he or she is the most important person on earth. There are three main reasons for this: 1) As far as that person is concerned, they are the most important person in the world; 2) It's the way things ought to be; and 3) Feeling important, loved, respected, and needed is something we all need.

American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842-1910) once said, "The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes."

Whether you've been copywriting for six months or six years, just out of high school or near retirement age, have a history of success or a history of failure behind you, you possess the power to make your life better.

As pastor, author, and educator Charles R. Swindoll writes, "Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstance, then what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill."

If you incorporate the lion's share of these tips into your life, you can't help but convey a more positive, cheerful demeanor to the world.

Not only will you feel better about yourself in your personal life, good things are bound to happen in your career as well. Because as Nightingale reminds us, people will give their love, respect, and their business to someone who makes them feel like they're important, loved, and respected (#12).

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Published: January 25, 2011

11 Responses to “The First Thing You Need To Change To Lead A More Successful, Happier Life”

  1. Because one of a writer's habits is to check and recheck facts, I checked the Charles R. Swindoll quote. It really is much longer and more involved than is stated above. Someone must have misled you. Because of character limitation in the comment space, the quote cannot be stated with this comment. I will give you the quote in a new comment box.

    Guest (WordWriter)

  2. “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll

    Guest (WordWriter)

  3. Great and practical points John, thanks.


  4. John, what a wonderful article, so rich and full of some of the best life lessons. Reading it, makes me want to read "Lead the Field". I could not have read this at a better time. Thank you for the serendipity filled with valuable reminders!

    Julie Van De Wyngaerde

  5. I was feeling down today until I read this article. Thank you for giving me something I will read over and over again!


  6. I really needed this at this time, I came to this from your E-Mail dated today!

    I was down, trying to get myself up to doing something, then received your E-mail and it picked me up and turned me around to do something!


  7. Great article.One that many of us need to practice.Good inspiration,it really touched my heart.Thank you.


  8. John, thanks for such an insipational article ... Already, I feel more connected to others. We sometimes need a refreshing reminder, as in your article, that we are all more alike - than different - with the same needs.

    Guest (Lynda)

  9. John Wood...I have seen your writting
    {The First Thing You Need To Change To Lead A More Successful, Happier Life} Very good thoughts as an Writter.

    Guest (Dr Agha Iqbal Hussain)

  10. One of the best and helpful articles I've read here so far. I've written down all 12 steps and will implement them daily

    Guest (butch247)

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