07/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

What's Your Attitude Factor?

I always take action with my Attitude Factor, and you can boost yours, too. We each do this in our own way, but no matter what, life is only as good as we believe it to be. As the saying goes: If you hope for rain, don't complain about the mud. In other words, often what you visualize is realized.

I live by various resolutions and tools for a positive outlook, and if these got me here from where I started, then you too can boost your attitude to live a more fulfilling life with greater possibilities. I'll share a few of my cornerstones at the end of this article.

But first, have you noticed that people with a positive outlook seem more content and fulfilled, and that their uplifting mindset is often contagious? Attitude and outlook are like laughter. They are behaviors and emotions that can spread to others.

Like most multiracial people, and other "mutts" with multiple identities (that includes most everyone), I lived for years not fitting into one category. Added to that, the born-in-prison stigma I carried for the longest time left me feeling like an outsider.

I once believed that the quality of my life depended on the circumstances around me and the situations of my past. If I don't fit in anywhere, I often thought, then how can my life be as good as the next person? How can I get far, I thought, coming from prison, from a class of women the country looks down on? It didn't matter then that I grew up in a fine family and home. The circumstances of my roots in prison haunted me.

Then the time came that I recognized I had the freedom to choose. Freedom to choose my attitude. While I can't change the circumstances of past obstacles (or even current adversity), I can change how I view those circumstances. I began to change my attitude and just believe that I could rise up. Believe that I belonged. No matter what the messages I received from "society," I started to tell myself that this country, with all its opportunity, is for me too, no matter the messages from others. This world is as much mine as anyone else's. The circumstances and situations that were challenging, or where I didn't fit, were just that. Circumstances and situations.

I then grew to expand that mindset to other times where I experienced personal, professional, or business downfalls. I took it on myself to see those too as circumstances and situations. Each time, I've risen above and moved forward, no matter what, with an outlook that things will get better. The attitude of This will pass, is a good one to keep in mind.

These days in this economy, and with so much personal and professional turmoil in the midst of what feels like ruin or collapse, a positive outlook can make all the difference between thriving and diving. What's your Attitude Factor? Do you thrive and stride through challenging circumstances or do you dive?

As I've written about before, I take issue with the happiness movement, for I believe our quality of life is enhanced by our positive outlook and attitude. I think the same as the writer, Leo Rosten, who said:

"I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all."

The power of attitude is often studied as a way to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve the quality of life. You'll find literally thousands of articles, readings, and research that speak to the mind-body-brain connection.

Sometimes the mind-body-brain connection is strong enough to make a difference between success and failure. Simple as your attitude. If you want to do something then you'll find a way, and if you don't want to do something, then you'll find an excuse, a way out. Can you think of a time when changing your attitude changed the results?

Winston Churchill summed it up when he said, "The Pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty."

Challenge yourself to find opportunity and deeper meaning in life and you'll notice that your attitude improves. To help, here are three cornerstones I live by that infuse life with meaning and purpose:

1) Be Curious
Learn new things, explore what you don't know, take risks, and stay open to the unknown.

2) Be Connected
Well-being is linked to your wider community. Stretch beyond your boundaries and create new connections to new people. Remember to also nurture your current connections and friendships.

3) Be Kind
A meaningful life means thinking of others as well as looking inside ourselves. Do something for someone else, and do it for the other person rather than for you. Give, whether it's your time, a shared idea, or any other resource that you can offer.

I recommend paying attention to each of these three cornerstones every day, and if not all three, then why not start with just one?

Get curious about breaking one of your daily patterns and take a new route to work. Or reach out and connect with someone you met at a gathering who peaked your interest and isn't in your usual circle of friends. And while your at it, take one night a week to serve food in a homeless shelter, or collect shoes from people you know to donate. If you think about, you'll come up with dozens of ways to be of service. It doesn't need to be complicated and half way across the globe. Start in your area.

Choose one of these resolutions to find deeper meaning in your day to day life and you'll boost your outlook and attitude. Make sure to stay with it.

I'll provide more tools for your Attitude Factor in future posts.

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This is another Musing for Mutts Like Me.

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Email: deborah.kjs [at] gmail [dot] com

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