05/23/2011 05:30 pm ET Updated Jul 23, 2011

Choosing a Winning Attitude

When interacting and speaking to successful leaders, I've noticed a strong commonality. Regardless of industry, upbringing or culture, these leaders share a similar disposition: a positive attitude, a refusal to allow external variables dictate their mood and a tenacious appetite for excellence.

Are these people born this way? Is attitude something that is dictated by one's genes or socialization? In my opinion, I believe attitude is a choice. Yep, every day you make a choice about how you will see and do the world. The same goes for how you approach and perceive your relationships, your opportunities and your "luck." You can choose to react to the external variables in a way that it controls you, or you can refuse to have your attitude shaken by the universe's curveballs.

When I look back at my own history, I know this to be true, for me at least. I've had times when I gave up and accepted defeat, spiraling into an emotional black hole. Then there were times where I decided to stay positive, even find humor in the situation, and focus on finding a solution rather than being engulfed in hopelessness. The catalyst wasn't any different in these two different scenarios. While the particular challenge may have taken a different form, my attitude is what changed the outcome.

I have realized that I can choose to sulk, have a "woe is me" mentality and be a victim of bad luck. Or, I can accept that challenges, roadblocks, ebbs and even unpredictable disasters are just a part of life. I could sit there and let these disruptions control me, or I could maintain a consistently positive attitude, perspective and way of dealing with these matters in a way that has impact and effect.

The scary part is that once you accept that you really do hold the power to make a choice, you take responsibility for your own life and happiness. You have no one and nothing else to blame. It's a lot easier to point fingers, to imagine that life, work and relationships would be better if only someone did something differently. But get rid of the scapegoat, and all you have left to hold accountable is you.

I still have my negative spirals, but I'm learning how to proactively get myself out of a rut. Some actions that have helped me include watching inspirational talks and speakers online every morning, taking "me" time to decompress and relax and writing down goals and solutions. The writing part helps because you can visualize where you want to be, what you want to change and the actual, tangible steps you can take to get there. When you have a direction to head toward, even if the steps are small, you suddenly stop feeling hopeless as you see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tweaking your mentality can have the greatest impact. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the emotions of everything that we forget that a winning attitude and a leadership mentality are trained. It's something that has to be practiced, grown and cultivated. It's a choice.

I'll leave you with a quotation that I draw inspiration from:

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
--Winston Churchill

Amy Chan is a relationship columnist for 24 Hours Newspaper and has her own blog