Goodman Shaffer: Attitude of gratitude: Power in the positive


As New Years’ resolutions begin to fade from our mind, there is one that I think is worth some re-commitment. It’s the concept that our attitude dictates our happiness, and, in fact makes an impact on those around us as well.

It’s not a new idea. Rev. Norman Vincent Peale first published his leadership book, The Power of Positive Thinkingin 1952, sharing ideas like: “The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.”

Oprah has been a mindset advocate for decades, expounding the benefits of being grateful; the concept of mindfulness in general has become a hot topic for achieving success and battling stress in today’s world.

When it comes to the connection between attitude and performance, there may be no better example than the realm of sports.

The Ohio Center for Sports Psychology recognizes nine specific mental skills that contribute to success in athletics, all of which, according to Jack J. Lesyk, Ph.D., can not only be learned, but also improved.

Number one, considered the most basic is to “choose and maintain a positive attitude.” The other qualities range from setting high, realistic goals and a high level of self-motivation to managing anxiety and emotion; but three of the nine skills feature the word “positive,” including practicing positive self-talk and using positive mental imagery.

Those skills come to bear when a basketball player stands at the free-throw line late in the game, the outcome of the contest literally on the line; or when a wrestler takes the mat against a higher-ranked opponent; or when a back-up quarterback has to lead his team into the post-season after seeing little playing time all year.

The power of believing in ourselves, and the value of showing our belief in others can make all the difference.

But those skills and values transcend sports as well. Dr. Lesyk compares the high-performance sports scenarios with situations away from athletics, like public speaking, performing a musical solo, responding to an emergency, even landing an airplane or performing brain surgery.

At the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, the injection of positive energy in the mid-1980’s notably turned the business from a drab fish store to a dynamic tourist attraction, where the entire team of fish mongers still strive to be “world famous.” And they are. The team learned the value of owning their attitude, having fun and finding ways to make others’ days. Their website describes their secret of success as “our commitment to being who we say we are.”

Positive energy, positive reinforcement, and a promise to ourselves and others to share those gifts and show our gratitude: those are resolutions worth revisiting in athletics and in life.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.