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Choose Your Own Attitude


J. D. Pendry


If you want to be miserable and an ineffective leader or team member, allow others to choose your attitude for you.Miserable and ineffective are probably not the best choices of words to begin a discussion with, but recalling the basics of the Army writing program thatís my BLUF.Itís the bottom line up front (BLUF).Once stated, my job is to spend the rest of my words convincing you that the BLUF is true.Youíre likely thinking JD has lost it again because you know that no one ever chooses your attitude for you.Well, that annoying sound you hear in the background is that grating, grinding buzzer that sounds whenever you get the wrong answer.Let me explain.


Your attitude is how you choose to deal with situations, people, fulfilling your role on a team or life in general.Itís an important topic for soldiers Ė leaders or not Ė to understand.Let me tell you that I think most of you are incredibly gullible and stupid.Some of you to the point that it hurts my head just to be near you.Right now, if the hairs on the back of your neck are standing up, youíre face is getting a little red, and youíre verbalizing a couple of choice adjectives regarding me Ė you just let me choose your attitude.I win you lose.This happens every day and for every encounter for some people taking away their ability to make intelligent choices and resolve problems.Why is that?


When you allow another person or a situation to choose your attitude for you, you are being reactive.Being reactive means that you have no plan.Being reactive takes you out of control.When you are out of control, you cannot influence the outcome of a situation or modify the behavior of the person to whom you might be reacting.To control a situation or anything, you must become proactive.You must choose your attitude.How about a couple of illustrations?


I imagine many of you are commuters jumping into your cars every morning hell-bent on getting some where youíd rather not be as fast as you can get there.I used to do that.I completed commuter basic combat training inside the DC beltway.Every time I engaged in that hostile melee, it was all about reacting to others.You tailgate me I tailgate you.Cut me off donít give me an opening.If you are in front of me, I must go faster than you.Iíd leave home feeling great and get to work ready to rip someoneís lips off, have a good day at work and arrive home in such a foul mood the dog wouldnít even have anything to do with me.Some weeks back I was making my 40-mile commute to work and minding my own business doing just a tad above the speed limit when a minivan started tailgating me so close that I couldnít even see his headlights.After I cleared the vehicle I was passing, I got over into the right lane and let him go by.As he passed, my beltway combat commuting post-traumatic stress disorder kicked in and I thought Iíd give him a dose of his own medicine. When he passed, I whipped back into the left lane so that he could see what it felt like to have my headlights in his back seat at 75 MPH.Although he was going decidedly faster than me and should have continued to pull away, he chose instead to slam on his brakes.It was thanks only to my cat-like reflexes that he and his minivan didnít become F150 hood ornaments.Mr. Minivan chose my attitude for me and nearly killed me in the process.That was still on my mind as I started the combat commute return trip that evening.Less than one hundred yards to my front there was an accident involving several vehicles.I sat and pondered things for the two plus hours it took to remove the four fatalities from the wreckage and clear the highway.I wondered if something similar to the stupidity that I participated in that morning might have caused the accident.It was an attention getter.Since then, I choose my own commuting attitude.


Did you ever meet the leader that could walk into a room, say a couple of words and have most everyone in the room madderín hell by the time he walked out?Those who were mad allowed the leader to choose their attitude for them.The leader, on the other hand, chose his attitude.Iíve been in situations such as this where much of my entire day involved either reacting to or commiserating with someone else who was reacting to a poor leader or decision.Itís a miserable and unproductive method and in the military a potentially fatal one.


Ok warriors, I see the eyeballs glazing over; so let me explain it this way.Who usually wins the fight?The element that takes and maintains the initiative usually wins, right?Why?Simple, they are keeping the initiative by being proactive due to their planning and training.The loser never gets out of the state of reacting.He never chooses his own attitude.


When you choose your own attitude, it puts you in control of you, which usually translates into control of situations.It gives you time to formulate intelligent responses and resolve problems.


Not too long ago I walked into my bossesí office to drop off some work; I was whistling, sort of enjoying life.Just so happens that our next level boss was sitting in there and not in a good mood because he was busily reacting to his boss.He asked me, the whistler, why I was in such a good mood.I told him that I could choose to be miserable and commiserate with him or I could choose to be happy.I choose happy.


If your driving on I-64 between Saint Albans and Huntington, Iíll be the black F150 with the US Army Retired sticker in the back window, the cruise control set at the speed limit and the oldies blasting out of the radio.And Iíll be smiling and singing along.


Choose your own attitude.


Copyright 2002 James D. Pendry All Rights Reserved