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  • Writer's pictureYPR

Attitude Precedes Action

Updated: Feb 26

I suppose I should feel lucky (actually proud) that my kids come to me for advice. They usually come seeking a solution to a perceived urgent problem in their lives. They crave a quick answer. They seek from me concrete, actionable steps that will remedy their situation. Regardless of what the problem-of-the-day happens to be, I always seem to give them the same unsatisfying answer: “Before you can discern the right course of action from the wrong one, you must first get your attitude right.”

While they are initially frustrated by my response, over time my lesson seems to be sinking in. The wrong attitude—for example, one of desperation—will cause someone to grasp at solutions that are expedient, but not necessarily wise. An attitude of weakness may cause someone to retreat, when sometimes confronting an issue head-on might be the better answer. An attitude of hopelessness may cause someone to give up too easily, when some perseverance was in fact called for. The wrong attitude almost always leads to the wrong solution to a perceived problem. Conversely, an improved attitude will not only lead to a better solution, it can even make someone realize that there was never really a problem to begin with.

Therefore, I advise my kids that before approaching any of life’s puzzles, it is essential to first get your attitude right. Tune your mind [1] just as you would sharpen a knife before cooking, just as you would tune a musical instrument before performing, or just as you would calibrate an electronic diagnostic tool before using it to repair something. I tell them, “To find your answer, you only need to invest 15-minutes,” consisting of three five-minute steps.

The first 5-minute step is to get out of your head. A 5-minute cold plunge or ice-cold shower, a 5-minute set of jumping jacks and pushups, or a 5-minute crazy dance session to a wild song. As embarrassing as it may be, if you want to solve your problem, it is essential to first quiet the noise in your mind. Problems are analogous to nightmares, and getting into your physical body is a great way to wake up from much of the drama.

For the second step, I ask my kids, “In this moment, do you love your life?” Take 5-minutes to write a list of reasons—your current “problem” notwithstanding—why your life is so awesome. A written, numbered list of how truly lucky you are. Lucky to have food in your belly. To have clothes on your back. To have functional eyes, ears, and limbs. To live where you live. To have been born when you were born. To have me as your dad 😉. It seems simplistic, but a 5-minute gratitude exercise is an amazingly effective tool for tuning one’s mind to reality.

Finally, for the third step I ask them to consider their alleged problem and imagine the worst-case scenario. As an exercise, I ask them to spend 5-mnutes visualizing the situation they fear most, but somehow the result being better than their wildest dreams. It doesn’t matter what the problem is: Imagine failing the test, but then studying the answers you got wrong to master the subject and ultimately ace the class. Imagine the boy rejecting you, but then meeting a new boy who turns out to be the love of your life. Imagine forgetting your lines while speaking on stage, but then speaking sincerely from the heart and getting a standing ovation. Imagine getting fired from your job, but then starting your own business and becoming obscenely wealthy and successful. This little visualization exercise I call “making peace with the worst-case scenario” is a surprisingly effective tool at reducing stress.

After these 15 short minutes of mental gymnastics, I see a tiny smile come across my son’s or daughter’s face. For some reason, their urgent problem does not seem quite so daunting as it once did. Now, we look at their situation lightheartedly, as one would approach a puzzle. Having effectively shut off their fight-or-flight mechanism, they can now use their brilliant mind to explore solutions with focus, with creativity, with playfulness, and with confidence.

If you want to talk about strategies for working with your kids on their life direction, feel free to reach out. In parallel with my other entrepreneurial endeavors, I work with clients one-on-one to build custom programs for them and their children to follow, and we make adjustments along the way to ensure positive results. In our career-centric society, we spend so much time and effort on other parts of our lives, often to the inadvertent neglect of our role as parents, not realizing it until there is a problem. By investing some energy into purposefully improving our parenting skills, we can avoid challenges down the road, and better achieve our goal of raising healthy, happy, noble human beings.

-YPR is a business and personal advisor to clients around the world. He is the author of the two book series, Happiness and Heroism: The School of Being, The School of Doing.

[1] “Tuning your Mind” is the title of Chapter 6 in Happiness & Heroism: The School of Being, The School of Doing

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