Examples of a Positive Mental Attitude and Why You Need It

Updated 14 August 2019

hugo huyer author of tracking happiness small

by Hugo: Founder of Tracking Happiness, marathon runner, data junkie and happiness tracker for almost 6 years.

It's time to talk about having a Positive Mental Attitude. I believe this concept is getting more and more important these days, especially since our world is becoming more complex every minute.

Before I dive into the many examples of why you need to have a Positive Mental Attitude, let's first explain why I think this is so important.

It's very simple actually. They say happiness is determined as follows:
- 50% is determined by genetics
- 10% is determined by external factors
- 40% is determined by your own outlook

This determination has been studied by numerous researchers, and while the details differ, the results all share the same observation:

Happiness is something that can be influenced by your own personal outlook. That 40% is something that you can influence just by changing your personal outlook. And that's where a Positive Mental Attitude enters the picture.

I want to show you actionable examples of how you can train your own Positive Mental Attitude, in order to take control of your happiness.

Examples of why you need a Positive Mental Attitude

What is a Positive Mental Attitude exactly?

A Positive Mental Attitude is quite simple to understand. Allow me to use a very simple example.

Positive Mental Attitude Example 1: Dealing with the weather

You need to head out for groceries, but just as you step outside, you find out it's raining!

There are a couple of things you can do here:

  1. You can be mad at the weather and postpone your plans and wait for the rain to pass over
  2. You can grab an umbrella and head out anyway, still feeling slightly pissed off at the weather
  3. You can be grateful for the fact that you are in a position to buy groceries and decide that the weather is not something you want to feel bummed out about

It's probably the easiest for you to go with decision 1. It's the path of the least resistance, as you'll be placing the blame on something else. You're the victim here, right?! This weather is ruining all your plans, and as a result, you're day is ruined and you're less happy.

Have you ever done this before? It's okay. I've done it as well. We've most likely all been there.

This is a victim mindset, and it's important to understand this (more about this later). Let's first go back to the example and cover the second decision:

You feel bad about the weather but don't want it to interfere with your plans. So you grab an umbrella and go on with your activities. Sure, it's less fun this way, but you don't want to allow the weather to ruin your strict schedule. So you continue to do your chores with a grumpy face.

This is already much better than decision #1, as you'll at least be busy with something else. You don't have time to focus on the bad weather since you've got to focus on your groceries!

But this is still not the decision that results in the most happiness. The best decision is to actively decide to have a Positive Mental Attitude about the situation.

Wait. What?

Yes, a Positive Mental Attitude. In order to understand this decision, let's have a look at the exact definition of this term.

Definition of a Positive Mental Attitude

The definition of a Positive Mental Attitude can be summarized as follows:

The ability to create a positive attitude, along with positive thoughts and affirmations, without being affected by potential negative factors.

This concept was first introduced by Napolean Hill, in his book Think and Grow Rich. He believed that developing a Positive Mental Attitude leads to positive things like success, achievements, and happiness.

It's important to note that having a Positive Mental Attitude will allow you to control the 40% of your happiness that is based exclusively on your own personal outlook.

Example of a Positive Mental Attitude: Dealing with the rain!
Don't allow bad weather to influence your happiness

How a Positive Mental Attitude can be used to control your happiness

Let's go back to our example. We used 3 decisions as an example that each resulted in different outcomes. Notice how I used the word "decision" here. That's because your reaction to a certain event is a choice: A decision that you can make.

Our happiness is influenced by an endless list of factors. Some of these factors are controllable (like hobbies, your work, or your fitness). However, most of these factors are out of our control. They are external happiness factors that we don't get to influence. The weather that we used before is a perfect example of an external factor.

We cannot control the weather. But we can control how we react to the weather. And that is the key principle to having a Positive Mental Attitude. We get to choose how we react to events, and by having a Positive Mental Attitude, we can vastly improve our happiness when dealing with these situations.

That's what this article is about. I want to show you more examples of a Positive Mental Happiness, and how you can use this skill to steer your life in the best direction possible.

Positive Mental Attitude examples

Let's go back to our initial assumption about happiness. The bulk of our happiness is influenced by factors that we cannot control. But as we discussed in the previous example, we can control how we react to those factors. Let's use a couple of these so-called external factors as an example here.

Positive Mental Attitude Example 2: Being assigned to a boring task at work

Picture this: you're working in a marketing team and have worked your ass off to reach a target early. Your manager is happy with you but is not yet ready to give you a new big project. Instead, you are assigned to an activity that hasn't been picked up for months. You are tasked with finding the email address of marketing employees for a list of 5,000 companies. Yikes.

Obviously, this is not something that you're going to enjoy doing. It's dull work, and will likely take you hours to complete by hand. What are you going to do? Complain about it with your coworkers around the coffeemaker? Call in sick untill you get assigned to some higher priority task? Browse social media all day?

You could do all of those things, but as you might have guessed by now, these decisions won't have a positive influence on your ultimate happiness. How about we tackle this example with a Positive Mental Attitude?

Now, remember, having a Positive Mental Attitude is about facing challenging situations with a positive mindset. Instead of allowing this external happiness factor to get you down, you can also consider doing the following:

  • Accept the fact that you'll be doing a dull task for the next 30 hours at work.
  • Bring your headset to the office
  • Let your colleagues know what you're going to be doing
  • Put on a nice album on Spotify
  • Focus on the dull and repetitive task at hand
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Get a good cup of coffee and have a snack every once in a while
  • Share your progress with your colleagues

This is just an example of how you would face this situation with a Positive Mental Attitude. What's so important about this list? It focuses on the positive side of your work.

How? Because it gives you reasons to feel good about what you're doing:

  • You can enjoy your favorite music while working on the task
  • Go out for a walk in your break to enjoy being outside for a moment
  • Enjoy your cup of coffee and definitely think about how nice your snack is!
  • Collect compliments from your coworkers about your progress, since they all know how dull your work is

See what you're doing here? You're actively deciding to focus on the positive aspect of your work here. This is what we talked about in our first example as well. Just as you can't influence the weather, you can't change your dull assignment. But you can change how you react to this as a person.

So instead of focusing on the negatives, having a Positive Mental Attitude allows you to still be happy in this situation.

Focus on stuff that makes you happy with a Positive Mental Attitude
Focus on stuff that makes you happy with a Positive Mental Attitude

Positive Mental Attitude Example 3: You're not invited to a friend's party

Here's another example: you've just finished your dull activity at work (as discussed in the first example) and are ready for a nice weekend. As you scroll down your Facebook feed, you see how your friends are having a gettogether and you haven't been invited.

What the hell? You just finished a tough week at work and want to blow off some steam, and now you find your friends planning fun activities behind your back?

Again, here's how you can decide to react:

  • You're PISSED. You go home, feel agitated and resent your friends for having fun without you.
  • Screw it. You make plans for a nice evening for yourself. Pour yourself a drink and enjoy your favorite movie.

See how both these options are decisions that you can make? Sure, you can't change the past and have your friends invite you. But you can alter the future based on how you react to this!

So you can feel bummed out and spend the entire evening resenting your friends. That's an option. But that won't do your happiness any good now, will it?

You have to recognize that you can influence how this external event influences your happiness. Having a Positive Mental Attitude in this example can help you be happy despite this seemingly bad news.

Focus on the things that you CAN influence and can still make you happy. What would I personally do in this situation?

  • Go for a run in the evening
  • Have a cold beer while enjoying a movie
  • Call a different friend to see if he wants to hang out instead!

These are all things that you can do without requiring external happiness factors. This is the point of having a Positive Mental Attitude. Forcing yourself to see the positive side of a bad situation allows you to increase your happiness despite a negative external influence.

You don't necessarily need others to be happy when you have a Positive Mental Attitude
You don't necessarily need others to be happy when you have a Positive Mental Attitude

Let's discuss one final example of having a Positive Mental Attitude

Positive Mental Attitude Example 4: Being stuck in traffic

Imagine that you just finished a long day at work doing the activity that we discussed in example 1. You want to get home ASAP in order to enjoy a nice movie. But when you enter your car and turn on the radio, you hear that there's been a crash on the motorway.

As a result, you'll be stuck in traffic for at least 40 minutes.

The first thought that enters your mind may be similar to this: Can this day get any worse??!?!?!

And that's okay. I usually have that exact thought whenever I see a big traffic jam on my commute.

But that doesn't necessarily have to mean your day is ruined. Instead of feeling irritated by the seemingly endless amount of cars in front of you, you can try to use your Positive Mental Attitude again.

You might not enjoy being stuck in traffic, but you can actively decide to focus on things that could still make you happier.

How does that work?

Well, instead of cursing the traffic, you can focus your energy on something positive like:

  • Good music (turn up that volume and sing along to your favorite song)
  • Give that other good friend a call to see if (s)he has plans for tonight!
  • Close your eyes for a minute and let your mind wander (only do this when completely stalled though!)
  • Make a realistic planning for how you're going to do the things that you want to do in the evening

By now, you should recognize that these things are all within your sphere of influence. You can do all these things without being reliant on some external factor that you cannot control. This is the power of having a Positive Mental Attitude.

Being stuck in traffic doesn't have to cause unhappiness
Being stuck in traffic doesn't have to cause unhappiness

Benefits of a Positive Mental Attitude

After reading these examples, you should have a pretty clear picture of what the benefits of having a Positive Mental Attitude are. If you skipped the examples and jumped straight to this section via the table of contents, then here's a list summarizing the biggest benefits of having a PTA:

  • Turning a bad situation around by focusing on the positives
  • You're more likely to influence your happiness by better deciding how you'll react to certain events
  • It's easier for you to achieve your goals by focusing on what's working instead of what's not working

I'd like to add one of my favorite quotes to this list as well:

A pessimist sees the negatives or the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

— Winston Churchill

It's not hard to see how a Positive Mental Attitude shares a lot of overlap with being an optimist, right? Anyway, let's continue the list of benefits:

  • Happiness is a state of mind. A Positive Mental Attitude helps you tune that state of mind into something that's happier
  • Dealing with challenges or obstacles is much easier when you have a Positive Mental Attitude
  • You'll be more likely to continue after failing. This way, failing is merely a temporary setback which will turn into a valuable lesson. In fact, there's nothing bad with failing on its own. It's the "not getting back up" part that you should worry about
  • Perhaps the most important benefit of all: having a Positive Mental Attitude might be infectious.

I don't mean that in a bad way! Your positive attitude has a big chance of radiating towards those that surround you.

Let's look at another simple example of how you can benefit from having a Positive Mental Attitude:

Imagine this: you're in the car with a friend and are in a hurry to catch the start of a football game. As another traffic light turns red, you start feeling a bit angry and impatient. It makes sense, right?

Chances are your friend is feeling the exact same emotions. And he wants to vent about it. “Stupid traffic this!” and “Stupid red lights!”

It's what humans do best: put the blame on someone/something else. In this case, those horrid traffic lights are to blame.

self awareness example red light

Instead of allowing yourself to be irritated by these traffic lights, you can try to practice your Positive Mental Attitude. You'll understand how these traffic lights are merely an external factor that you cannot control, and instead, you'll focus on something positive. This is difficult for most people but will get easier over time.

If you're able to focus on the positives, you'll see that you'll still see most of the football match. Worst case scenario: you miss the first 5 minutes. No big deal.

But here's where it gets better.

You can now use your Positive Mental Attitude to positively influence your friend. He's probably still sitting there, blaming devilish traffic lights. You can now spread your happiness by talking him into something positive as well. Maybe bring up that previous game you watched, or tell a joke. I know it sounds silly, but it's the simple things that can change the entire mood on a night out.

What I want you to know is that you have the power to influence these situations. I'm not talking about the traffic lights itself. No, these are just external factors. I'm talking about how you - and therefore others - can react to those external factors. Instead of taking the easy way, you can train your Positive Mental Attitude and decide to focus on something else instead.

How to have a Positive Mental Attitude

I hope you are convinced that a Positive Mental Attitude is something that you need. If you are, then here are five actionable steps you can follow to train your PTA:

  1. Recognize the difference between external factors and internal factors. For those who missed it: external factors are things that we cannot control but still influence our happiness (think traffic, weather, work, being wronged by others, etc).
  2. Be aware of how these factors are affecting your mental attitude. This is where self-awareness really comes into play. You need to know when and how these factors are causing you to feel unhappy.
  3. Embrace the fact that you can still control how you react to external factors. Despite not being able to control the weather or your colleagues, you are still able to choose how you react to those things.
  4. Try to actively focus on positive things whenever something bad happens. This is where optimists really excel. Are you not an optimist? Don't worry, because that's also something you can train!
  5. Spread your Positive Mental Attitude with others and make the world a better place. This might sound corny, but it's true. With your positive mindset, you can spread your happiness to others. Show them how to be happy despite the shitty weather, dull work assignments or the terrible traffic!

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Who runs Tracking Happiness?

My name is Hugo, and I'm from the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, a passion for data and statistical analysis and am an expert in happiness.

I've tracked my happiness every day for 5 years in a row. And I'm now using my knowledge to inspire you to prioritize your happiness. You see, I'm a strong believer in what gets measured gets managed. I want to show you what I - and many others - have learned while tracking our happiness.

My Happiness Essays have reached thousands of people around the world and have been shared in many places.

With my data, I have inspired hundreds of others to also track their happiness. And I'm hoping this number will only grow more!

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