Attitude and Effort

Attitude and Effort, BLOG, vol. 2, no. 13

     Attitude and effort. Two things we can control. Two things that can determine (often greatly) how well we succeed in relationships, at work, while playing a game, or life in general. Have you ever heard someone say, in reference to a person’s lackluster performance, “her heart just wasn’t in it.” People saw the person going through the motions, while playing ball, or singing onstage, or working on a project for school, but the effort was flat. The result? Poor. Clearly not reflective of the person’s skills or abilities. Perhaps the ones saying this paid for a ticket to see the person sing onstage and ended up not liking the play and feeling cheated out of their money. They told other people to stay away; “she did not have her heart in it.” Perhaps those people stayed away and the theatre lost ticket sales.

    I am not suggesting that we can “think our way” to success. Although thinking, putting our mind to something, and focusing are important, essential elements to success, we need a very critical next step. Effort. I once asked a group of junior high students how many people in the room wanted an “A” on their report card in math. Every hand went up. Then I asked, “what would you say is the average number of homework hours one would need to undertake in order to get that grade?” I got a range, unrealistic at both extremes, but roughly the same across the middle – somewhere around two to three hours of homework for every class hour. The next question’s answer surprised me. “How many of you are willing to put in that kind of effort to get an A in math?” Only about a third of the room raised their hands. Thinking is one thing; doing is something entirely different.

     Think about baseball. If I have a bad attitude, I am likely to be very ineffective at the plate and likely sluggish on defense. I could miss opportunities to help my team score runs while on offense as well as prevent the opponent from taking a lead when we’re on defense. My bad attitude could cause me to argue with the umpire about balls and strikes, thereby enabling the pitcher to “psych me out” with certain pitches, ensuring my poor plate performance. I could carry that attitude into the field where I lose my concentration and miss key opportunities to throw out a runner or generate a double-play. My attitude would clearly have a dilatory effect on the team; negativity would hang over us like a sour mist. I could very well pull the team down with me.

     Attitude and effort are key sides of the same coin. One is ineffective alone. Both are essential for the optimal functioning of a team, solid communication between friends, problem-solving among families and more. I often wonder what lies behind a person’s negative attitude – does it stem from some unhealth in the person’s past or present relationships? How does shame play a role (often bullies are deeply wounded, shame-afflicted folk) – and are they even aware of shame’s role in their thoughts and feelings? Generating a positive attitude is unlikely to happen without outside help. It doesn’t necessarily have to be professional counseling (unless the problem is really severe). Often, rallying a team to Little League affirmation, calling out the best in each other, cranking up the volume in our joint efforts all contribute to pulling our teammate out of a funk and back into the groove.  Do it sometime. See how well it works….because, atta boy, atta girl, you’ve got this!

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