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The evidence is stacking
up that a positive attitude
shapes and enhances
our lives in every way -- in
health, wellbeing, love,
career, even playing
sport. Dr Peter Dingle PhD
explores its power.
Your attitude is basically how you
think and how you feel. Your
attitude is a product of your past
(or, at least, your perceptions of
your past), yourself and the world around
you and, through this, your conditioning.
It's conditioning that'll allow you to
make the right choices, to be prepared
to challenge yourself and to make those
positive changes. As you change, you'll take
on a more and more positive attitude.
Our past conditioning, in one way or
another, holds all of us back. How many
times have we heard ourselves or our kids
say, "I can't do that", only to look back and
realise we could have done it. Sometimes
our conditioning prevents us from even
seeing opportunities until they've passed
us by. The limiting factor was simply our
conditioning, the way we thought. We can
condition animals to stay inside a light
fence. A horse that is about 10 times more
powerful than us can be controlled with a
flimsy piece of rope. If you put a bunch of
fleas in a container they will jump up and
down as high as they can. If you put on a
lid, they'll hit the lid when they jump, so
they learn to do only small jumps. When
you take the lid off, they continue to do
small jumps. They've been conditioned. All
through our lives we have lids put on us.
If parents can recognise some of the "lids"
they've had all their lives, they can then
remove some of the "lids" on their own
I recently met a woman who was
passionate and successful at what she did.
She was not rich, but she was very happy,
earned a satisfactory income and, most
importantly, derived a lot of happiness
from helping people. She had a rough
upbringing without parents, but had a
loving grandmother. She also recently
overcame a life threatening disease and
continues to inspire the people she
helps. Her brother and sister went onto
alcohol, drugs and the sex industry. They
had much the same upbringing, but one
saw it as contributing to her strengths,
making her into who she is today, while
the other two saw it as the cause of all
their problems. Their perceptions of the
situation determined how they reacted.
For one reason or another, one learned
optimism and the other two learned
Some interesting studies have been
conducted on conditioning. In one
study, dogs were put in a small room and
subjected to a mild electric shock. The
dogs tried to avoid the shock in various
ways, but there was no escape. After a short
while, the dogs simply became willing to
sit down and do nothing. In the second
part of the experiment, an easy escape was
provided, but the dogs remained apathetic.
These dogs were conditioned to believe
they could not find a solution to the pain.
A second group of dogs was provided
with an escape in the first part of the
experiment. In the second phase, even
when faced with no escape from the
pain, these dogs continued to search
for an escape. This group of dogs was
conditioned to believe that they could find
a solution and so they continued to search.
In a similar experiment, a number
of rats was made to swim in a container
without anywhere to rest. A second set of
rats was also made to swim, but they were
given a small ledge to rest on. After some
time, the first set of rats gave up and quit
swimming. The second set had their ledge
removed, yet continued to swim for twice
as long as the first set of rats. The second
group of rats continued to swim because
they had the expectation of finding a safe
ledge on which to rest.
The good news is that you can teach
an old dog new tricks, and even the dogs
who gave up and just accepted the pain
were able to learn to look for an escape. It
just took a bit more effort.
When Einstein was asked, in reference
to his discovery of the theory of relativity,
"How did you do it?" he replied, "I ignored
the axiom." In other words, he ignored
the established beliefs in the field. Have
you ever wondered about the evidence
that shows the majority of working class
kids grow up to be working class adults?
(And it has nothing to do with IQ.)
Conditioning has little relevance to the
here and now because it is based on past
information. If you consider the history
of many Australian and American leaders,
they're not leaders because of their IQ,
they're leaders because they come from a
political family and there's an expectation
that they'll be a political leader. George
Bush has been prime d since the day he was
born to be president of the US.
A story that we are all familiar with is
Roger Bannister and the four minute mile.
More than 50 medical journal articles were
written on why it was impossible to beat
the four minute barrier to run a mile. Roger
Bannister refused to believe the research
and consequently broke that four minute
barrier in 1954. And now it's regularly
beaten. Athletes have learned that the
only real barrier to their achievements is
the mind. As a result, athletes continue to
break world records and they'll continue
to do so until such time they think they
You can change your conditioning
through developing a positive attitude.
This doesn't mean you or your kids have
to become super optimists -- you just need
to recognise and chip away at self limiting
conditioning. There are now dozens of
studies showing its power. The benefits
include improved health and wellbeing,
living longer, success at university, school
and career, sporting achievements and
many other areas of our lives. Developing
a positive attitude is probably the most
important thing a person can do to change
their life. But don't worry, as I've already
said, an old dog can learn new tricks!
Fortunately, there are many techniques
you can use to develop and enhance a
positive attitude. So let's get started. It's
not just about feeling good or a matter of
improving some aspects of your or your
kids' lives. It's about survival. Positive
attitude is the single most important factor
in determining how long and how well
we will live.
In a study that began in 1974, Dr Ronald
Grossarth-Mahcek gave a 15 question
"Pleasure and Wellbeing" test to 3,055
elderly residents in Heidelberg, Germany.
In the follow up, 21 years later, those who
had scored highest on the test, that is,
those who had the most positive attitudes,
were 30 times more likely to be alive
and well than those who had low scores.
Only 2.5 per cent of the participants who
scored two or less were still alive 21 years
'Positive attitude is the single most important
factor in determining how long and how well
we will live.'
Do you have
problems in life?
What does your future hold?
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