Julie Andrews’ melodious voice singing “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” is a “delightful” reminder that positivity can change any task into “a game.” But when applied to tasks other than chores (#adultlife), positivity on its own is usually not enough for long-term happiness; the frustration, bitterness, anger, discontent, etc. inevitably resurfaces.
While positivity is a crucial part of happiness, long-term happiness requires support from attitude and perspective for sustainability. The good news about that is all three – positivity, attitude, and perspective – are within your power to control. We don’t have a specific life event or age that magically switches our attitude or perspective, but we have the opportunity to empower ourselves to change them at any time.
Changing attitude and perspective takes a willingness and acceptance of room for improvement that challenges self-perceptions. Understanding that your reactions are a manifestation of your attitude and recognizing them in action requires a level of self-awareness that is difficult to achieve. And sometimes it does take a significant life event to jump start the process: becoming a parent, losing a job, divorce, the death of a loved one, a diagnosis, an accident.
My life event was my declining mental health.
I had been in my corporate, high-pressure job for over a year when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I had spiraled so far into my depressive mind that I didn’t recognize my retreat from my life and my relationships. I was going through the motions and fell deeper every time I felt criticized by my leaders to the point that I felt numb and disconnected from my life.
As the stereotypical overachiever, I am a naturally anxious person with perfectionist tendencies, but this job had agitated my anxiety so much that I began taking medication to manage my mental health and bring me back to “normal.” It took me months to feel the change and stepping back into my life was incredibly difficult. I felt judged by my loved ones and I judged myself as weak. But I eventually approached “normal” and was able to build my confidence enough to grow into the shoes I once filled.
I still struggle some days, but what I learned from this experience changed my perception of my power to control my experiences. Once I began learning about self-acceptance, I started taking control of my attitude about my job and it made all the difference. For me, that meant reminding myself constantly that I was capable because of my skill set, critical feedback was not a personal attack, and my opinion was valuable. Manager snapping at me for a date typo on an e-mail? Mistake that can easily be corrected, not a challenge to my capability. Missing the mark on a project? Listen to feedback, ask clarifying questions, and improve.
Practicing positivity played a large part for me, but was not the critical change. A spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down in isolated instances, but attitude and perspective drive the long-term change needed to make lasting impacts to well-being, happiness, and health.
What have you done to adjust your attitude or perspective?