By Gayla Grace

The doctor was grim, but polite. "You probably have three to six months of good health." The words spoken to Dr. Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, were devastating. He knew his pancreatic cancer had returned but he wasn't ready to give up on life. So he spent his last few months concentrating on living instead of dying. In his national bestseller, "The Last Lecture," Dr. Pausch tells of his desire to live with no regrets, despite the circumstances. "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." He titled his last lecture, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," and spoke of the need to overcome obstacles, enable the dreams of others, and savor every moment because "time is all you haveâ¦and you may find one day that you have less than you think." It's a beautiful illustration of the difference a positive attitude can make.
As we focus on women in business this month, I want to consider the role attitude plays. Our attitude in business can determine our success or failure. Attitudes are powerful and lead to positive and negative behavior. Attitudes of others can also affect us, but only if we allow them to. Spending too much time with negative people may drag us into their misery. Taking ownership of the factors affecting our attitude allows us to take control of our emotions and the behavior that follows.
Dr. Martin Seligman, considered the father of positive psychology, discovered that attitude is a better predictor of success than I.Q., education, or various other factors. "More than 1,000 studies using Professor Seligman's work prove that people with an optimistic attitude perform better in most aspects of life, including academic achievement, sales productivity, emotional resilience, immune system strength, and even cancer survival," the Foresight Institute reports. Professor Seligman created the Seligman Attributional Style Questionnaire (SASQ) to help employers determine a person's attitude toward significant events in their life, predicting their success in various employment roles. He found that optimistic sales agents outsell pessimists by 38% and top customer service staff is 50% more optimistic than below average staff.
Two well-known authors echo similar thoughts on attitude. Dr. John Maxwell, a leadership expert, states, "Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude." And Norman Vincent Peale, in his best-selling book, "The Power of Positive Thinking," suggests changing "your mental habits to belief instead of disbelief. Learn to expect, not to doubt." In other words, don't allow your mind to be filled with negative thoughts or beliefs. Expect the best for yourself and act accordingly.
Positive people draw others to them like a magnet. My hairdresser, Debbie Eckert, offers an inviting environment at her salon, Debbie's Hair Productions, with an upbeat attitude and friendly atmosphere. Despite an accident on vacation recently that resulted in a broken foot, Debbie is still at work with a smile on her face and encouraging words for her customers and co-workers. Debbie willingly listens to customer problems, offering suggestions or prayers as needed. She maintains a positive attitude on good days and bad, contagious to others frequenting her business.
We demonstrate positive thinking when we focus on solutions instead of problems, continuously taking steps toward achieving our goals, despite setbacks and failures. We use creativity and possibility thinking to overcome roadblocks, refusing to consider defeat. We rely on positive affirmations to build our self-confidence, drawing on inner strength when times get tough. And by recognizing the discipline of positive thinking, we in turn benefit from the rewards that go along with it.
Attitude is a choice. It is determined by how we think about what is going on around us. If we want to change our attitude, we must change our thinking first. Perhaps the best advice is given by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8: "â¦Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about," (Living Bible translation).