Attitude equals altitude is a little known expression, but one I personally keep coming back to. I have seen it in many guises and it is also used as an equation for success:
“Aptitude plus attitude equals altitude”.
I will come back to this in a minute. First I want to explain how I came across it.
Many years ago I encountered a youth worker in London who had a remarkable track record of helping troubled teenagers to turn their lives around. Attitude equals altitude was his whole approach to these young adults. However it was not just words on a screen or a piece of paper. He enacted this as a total belief and philosophy. To explain this, he would say that “people live down to the expectations that you set for them”. Hence if your expectation of the young people you were working with individuals who were troublesome, problematic or difficult this would be your experience. Conversely by setting high expectations, encouraging the best and by helping his clients to be the best people that they could be, he got different results. The expectations he set were not unrealistic, they were more to do with responsibility for personal behaviour and respect for others. He also understood that young people who have been abused or are involved in situations where there is a lot of inappropriate peer pressure find it hard to live to what we might consider to be social norms. However, because of his attitude and the high expectations that he set (for himself and his clients) he was able to make a really positive impact on people’s lives.
We can all learn from this. What expectations do you set for yourself, your children, your partner or for your life in general? Is your attitude set to achieve a high or low altitude? What would have to change for you to start living up to a different expectation for yourself rather than living down to some sub-optimal pastiche of what you really want for yourself in life? Need more convincing? Lets take the words that I used above and play with them a little. Setting high expectations – if you do this for yourself or your team, what outcome would you then expect? Encouraging the best from people.. How does this NOT lead to a good outcome?
So lets go back to the equation for success. Firstly, something to point out. I love motivational quotes because they succinctly convey inspirational ideas that, for want of a better expression, “hit a nerve”. You read them and they prompt helpful thinking. But if that is all that they do, then they are just words on a poster… you have to consider if they actually apply to you and then act if you realise something has to change. You also have to reflect and be critical in your thinking.
As I have just explained, attitude equals altitude helped one youth worker to create incredible possibilities for troubled young people, where all that existed before were difficulties. The success equation adds an extra dimension – aptitude. I get that a positive attitude is going to pay back, but does success really depend on aptitude as well? Let me give you the punch line first… NO!
I was in London this week to attend a Master class on Neuroscience in Coaching (part of my own continuous professional development) with Professor Patricia Riddell of Reading University. One of the strongest takeaways from this that I had was about neuroplasticity… that actually our capabilities are not set in stone in our heads and can be changed. In other words, you can do anything that you put your mind to. This is not just some New Age thinking, this is supported by hard science. So set the attitude altimeter for space. Anticipate that there will be challenges and setbacks along the way. These will only keep you from your goals if you let them. You may not get to space, but how would you feel if you got to the top of Mt. Everest! You’d never have got to that altitude without the right attitude. So, if you want more success in your life, have you got the right attitude?
You may not agree with me. Plenty of people I meet believe that they are not successful because of some perceived lack of aptitude or ability. Is this really true, or have they merely reinforced a limiting belief about themselves that will hold them back in life?
This is an area where coaching can really help – if you really want more success and feel that you can’t for whatever reason, think about talking to a coach like me.
Let me leave you with the words of a Colonel in the US Air Force:
“Continue to learn and approach each situation with a positive attitude, and you will soon find yourself in an unrestricted climb!”.
If you don’t like the altitude of your life, isn’t it time that you did something about it?You have a choice – you can either pull back the stick and enjoy the view or push the stick forward and live your life at low level. The decision is yours.