Little things add up to big things. But what makes you do the little things, positive or negative?
It’s not willpower that determines what you do. Willpower means forcing yourself to do something you don’t really want to do. You can’t force yourself to enjoy washing the dishes or raking the yard or helping your brother with his homework if you don’t really feel like it. That might work for a while, but not for long. You can’t keep forcing yourself to do something if you don’t really want to do it.
This is a lesson for young people and adults alike, adapted from the text of SUCCESS for Teens: Real Teens Talk about Using the Slight Edge, the cornerstone material of SUCCESS for Teens, a personal-development curriculum by the SUCCESS Foundation. The major takeaway for you and the teens you’ll want to share it with: Attitude matters. Because it’s not willpower that drives your actions; it’s your attitude.
Related: Why Your Attitude Is Everything
Your attitude shows itself in everything you do. Your attitude is so powerful that people can sense it before you say a word. Your body language conveys your attitude. You can sense how someone feels by the way he or she walks down the street, enters a room or sits on a couch. Your attitude determines both your simplest and most complicated actions, from the way you carry yourself to the way you deal with hard times.
So is controlling your attitude the secret to controlling your actions? If you could control your attitude, then you’d be able to control your actions, right?
Not exactly. That doesn’t work because you don’t have one single attitude. Your attitudes are changeable. One day you couldn’t be happier, until you get teased at school or fight with your sibling. Maybe today you’re excited about studying for that upcoming test, so you crack open the books and get moving.
But what if you just don’t feel like studying tomorrow? Your attitude is changing all the time. As your attitude changes, your feelings also change. Some days you’re not going to feel great. It’s hard to force yourself to feel happy when you’re not. Trying to control your attitude and feelings might work at first, but not for long.
So if your actions are not a result of willpower, determination, or controlling your attitude and feelings, then what is at the heart of your actions?
The key to the slight edge, or doing the little positive things, is discovering the source of your attitude. Understanding what’s at the heart of what you feel and believe is the key to achieving what you want in life. It comes down to what is called your philosophy, which is a fancy word for the way you see yourself and the world.
So the next time you feel your attitude changing, ask yourself:
- Have I thought about the source of my attitudes?
- Do I feel I understand them?
- What could I do to better understand my attitudes?
To download the e-book, learn about the program, share your story about it or make a contribution, visit SUCCESSFoundation.org. Leaders, participants and donors can request a profile in SUCCESS by emailing info@SUCCESSFoundation.org.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.