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Attitude Adjustment

"If you think you can or think you can't, you're right" - Henry Ford

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"I played a round of golf at the Kiele Course on the Hawaiian island of Kauai a few months ago. This course is consistently ranked as one of the most challenging around, and as a novice golfer, I was a bit worried about how I'd do. Let me rephrase that--it's not "novice," it's more like "terrible." Despite regular visits to our wonderful golf site here on, I am just not going to give Tiger a run for his money. So you can imagine my nerves getting up on that first tee.

Many times before, such an outlook would have ruined my whole day. But I found a neat trick that really changed how I viewed the experience, and ultimately the outcome of the day. The trick was to decide that I was going to have a great day--no matter what happened. If I lost a bucket of balls, or got a bowling score, or flubbed a tee shot, I wouldn't let that ruin my day. In essence, I resolved to have fun that day. Sure enough, I played my best golf ever.

This simple trick--deciding what the outcome of an experience will be--is adaptable to almost any situation, and works exceptionally well in the martial arts. Let's say you're tired from a long day at work and aren't particularly relishing the idea of showing up at the dojo. Or you're not happy with how your forms have been turning out; you're just not getting that kick-to-stance change transition just right. Just decide to have a good workout. That's right, just make a conscious decision that you're going to have fun. It sounds really simple, and it is.

Now you're probably thinking, but what if the experience really stinks? There's always aspects of an event or experience that make it worthwhile. Even if you feel as if you're not learning anything, you're identifying things that aren't useful, and can avoid them in the future. Most of the time what you originally thought was going to be a not-so-great experience turns out to be a great time, all by just changing your expectations.

Bruce Lee's Attitude

The Bruce Lee Retrospective exhibit at San Francisco's Chinese Cultural Center included many examples of Lee's personal letters, notes, and diaries.

One item in particular stood out for me--it was an white index card, trimmed to a narrow strip, like a bookmark. In crisp ballpoint script, Lee had written down several affirmations and goals, including the line, "You will never get any more out of life than you expect."

I like to think that Lee kept this list of principles to live by close at hand, say as a bookmark in his extensive library, or in his wallet, so he could remind himself of his goals every day.

I went home and made my own list.

"But I can't just change how I feel about something by just deciding to feel a different way!" you might exclaim. Why is that? Whether you're depressed or anxious or happy or elated, you don't change, just your attitude, and the way you look at a situation. Change the way you look at the situation and you'll change how you feel. And with practice, you can make this change in an instant, according to self-help guru Tony Robbins.

Using your ability to change your attitude instantly isn't just limited to training, either. In a self-defense situation, you might have to go from a languid, relaxed state to all-out aggression, all in a second. If you're being attacked, you don't get a chance to protest, "But I'm not feeling up to it." You're on! It's definitely not the time to have an attitude problem. Changing your attitude gives you a whole new look at life. Rather than feel bad about an experience, you can feel good, or at least dispassionately neutral. And that can make all the difference.

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