Attitude Adjustment in 2020

By Ennio Vita-Finzi

A large part of our individual happiness and success in life is based on our attitude. How we react to things and events around us often affects the outcome of our lives.

In our professional lives we are constantly bombarded by others’ opinions, standards and judgments. In the business world the pressure is always there to “move up” in our careers, even though we may be happy and content to just do a good job and stay at our current level. This subtle but constant pressure often forces many of us to compete and act in ways that may not be natural to us… after all, we are not all “Type A” personalities.

In addition, competition is not always fair and above-board. Instead of simply competing on ability or product knowledge, incompetent employees may fawn or curry favour with the boss, cunningly plan on being visible to upper management at the right moment, or simply loudly support the apparently winning (but not necessarily the right) team in meetings.

Job Expertise

At job-evaluation time it is naturally important that our boss be aware of our performance and ability to do our job. After all, it is his evaluation that will get us an increase in salary, a promotion, or just let us keep our jobs. However, while our supervisor’s opinion is important, it is also a mistake to believe that every boss’ evaluation of our performance reflects our real worth.

Their assessment of our work could easily be based on a wrong personal impression of who we are, or even a personal dislike of us. Therefore, it would be wrong to accept their opinion as the only worthwhile judgment of our work, and yet many of us do. The problem in the workplace is that many people’s personal self-worth is tied to their work as well as their peers’ and superiors’ perceived opinions of them.

Another challenge is that our bosses have their own agenda – after all, they may also be hoping for a promotion and/or playing at company politics. Furthermore, they may not necessarily be our best model. They may not know enough about our daily work to form an unbiased opinion – yet simply because they are our bosses we may wrongly shape our own self-evaluation, self-belief and self-worth only on that assessment.

Academic Standards

In the academic world, the pressure is always present to write reports and publish articles in order to meet a standard on which a professor’s performance is judged. The question to ask is: is a well-published academic a better educator than an involved teacher who can reach out and encourage students to learn?

Many a university professor gets trapped into publishing endless papers if he hopes to get tenure and be recognized by his academic peers and superiors. Many forget that the original reason they became educators was to be teachers who also write papers, rather than published researchers who sometimes teach.

Commerce

As executives rise to the top they often cannot afford to be seen as soft or indecisive if they want to get that next performance bonus and keep “moving up”. Many executives develop a reliance on numbers rather than on people and they can develop a ruthless ability to cut departments and fire staff when profits or targets are not being met. Those who try to keep their humanity alive are often forced to choose between the corporation or the staff they personally hired. Many either burn out or get fired for “non-performance” and an inability to meet “corporate objectives”.

Others move up to higher levels by learning how to block out their ability to care about interpersonal relations in favour of higher incomes and upward mobility. Special benefits such as Club memberships, powerful-sounding titles, Board appointments, financial bonuses based on results, corner offices, more staff, keys to the executive washroom and other trappings of power can be very enticing and often cloud a person’s ability to assess oneself in non-competitive terms.

Societal Traps

Societal traps and influences also touch all of us in some way. For example:

(a) We may decide to buy a specific car because a television commercial seduces us by offering unexplained but tantalizing discounts and “cash back” limited-time guarantees.

(b) Because fashion magazines tell us a specific color is now “in” this season, we feel the need to buy new clothing despite the fact that we may not like that color at all.

(c) We develop worrying symptoms if a neighbour tells us we don’t look well, or start believing we are getting a cold because the TV announcer states that the “the flu season has started, folks” while touting the latest cold remedy.

(d) We buy certain products because the purchase provides us with “points” or “air miles” instead of seeking and expecting the quality and good service we are entitled to, without those marketing inducements.

(e) We are easily influenced by advice from total strangers because they sound or look “knowledgeable” rather than trust our own instincts and experience about a topic, or take the time to check it out.

The media is probably the most subtle of all these societal traps. Under the guise of “investigative reporting” the media can easily sway public opinion on almost any topic, convincing the general public to trust or dislike a personality by presenting a biased or slanted story. The media can provide statistics that may not be exact, knowing that few will take the time to check the facts. Any erroneous stories in a newspaper are later retracted in a small paragraph, but usually after our opinions have already been heavily influenced.

Media comments can even reflect a TV station’s political leanings, a newspaper owners’ reliance on their financial backers or shareholders, the publisher’s or radio station manager’s individual beliefs and prejudices or even represent a reporter’s personal opinions or bias. What we read and see as “news” is often diluted and cut to suit a time slot, a specific space available for a column which needs to be wedged between advertisements, or is simply a statement commercially designed to increase circulation, TV viewership or audience ratings.

Of course, the Internet and social media need to be added to this list of traps. They are uncontrollable and therefore can be used by anyone to praise or criticize anything or anyone. Blogs, chat rooms and websites are open channels for all types of positive or negative opinions.

Thoughtless individuals or well-organized computer hackers can easily sway large sectors of the public and often do so with impunity. The problem is that even in our electronic society, the written word carries considerable weight, regardless of its origin or its true purpose and people can blindly fall for whatever seductive message it provides.

We often fall into these traps because we are generally either too lazy or too busy to go that extra step and think for ourselves. We get lulled into full agreement and acceptance that others’ unfounded opinions might be more important than ours, letting them influence us completely. While it is useful to listen to others’ comments and get a different view of a situation, our own opinion should be what counts for most for us.

Attitude & Expectations

The happy and successful outcome of our life is therefore based on our attitude. In many ways, we are what we expect to be: If we expect to be poor, we will probably be poor. If we believe that we will never be happy, it is unlikely that we will be happy. If we think that we will always be sickly, we will often be sick. The outcome of our life is directly related to our own perspective and our expectation of events around us.

Therefore, while accepting these concepts may represent a major challenge for some, especially when they are faced with difficulties, a positive attitude will usually overcome a negative situation.

While some may label the concept as “spiritual” or even “holistic”, this writer has proven to himself many times that basing himself on others’ opinions does not work. When voicing their opinion everybody else relies on their own experience, so why not make an attitude adjustment and simply rely on our own gut?

Ennio Vita-Finzi has worked on three Continents as a Trade Commissioner, a multinational executive, a successful entrepreneur and a college and university lecturer. e.vita-finzi@sympatico.ca.

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