The power of attitude

Attitude is everything

All that’s standard after the holidays. Unlike other winters, though, something else started happening over the last few months that kind of snuck up on me. I started to have a bad attitude. Not like "I'm bagging it and going off the grid" bad attitude, but, "Gosh, I’m sick and tired of all this STUFF I have to do" bad attitude.

Over the past month my work life has included wrapping up last year’s goals, creating this year’s goals, performance evaluations, new team members to work with, lots of meetings — much of it stuff I do every January. I’m getting accustomed to the constantly changing environment in healthcare. Outside of work lots of what’s on the news is either scary or depressing, like the recent stock market roller coaster. And don’t even talk to me about the ramp-up to the 2016 presidential election!

Whatever the cause, I found myself dragging into work, feeling kind of tired, kind of ho-hum, here we go again. I got a little cynical and threw some pity parties for myself. As my energy flagged, my job list expanded. I found myself thinking: How am I going to have time for that new assignment? Can’t we have just a few months without a new regulation or requirement? Why do we have so many goals? I was behind on my email and behind on some projects. It felt lousy to feel lousy. I’d been spending a lot of time in my office catching up and chose to call into meetings instead of going in person. Even when I was with people, I was thinking about all I had to do and not taking the opportunity to engage with them. In short: I needed an attitude adjustment.

Then one Tuesday, I was sitting in a meeting with our regional and facility managers and I looked around the table. We were having a great discussion — I don’t remember the subject — and I thought: “Gosh, I really like these people. They make me smile. I’m glad I get to work here with them.” That made me feel better than I had in a couple of months. I had a thought: I’d let myself get dragged down by little things that didn’t matter. Yes, all of the things I need to do are important — goals, projects, etc. But I’d lost sight of why I do it, which is ultimately about people. Our patients, their families, my coworkers, our staff — that’s really what healthcare is all about.

The benefits of choosing to be positive…and focusing on people. We had a speaker at the meeting, Jon Gordon, who was talking about the rewards of vision, connection, optimism, and gratitude. He quoted Lou Holtz, the football coach, who said: “Don’t talk too much about your problems; 80 percent of people won’t care, and the other 20 percent will be glad you have them.” He said — and I love this: “Research shows you can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time.” Then Dr. Sam Brown of Intermountain Medical Center’s Shock Trauma ICU gave a powerful presentation on humanizing intensive care. He talked about respecting the intrinsic dignity of the people we care for (and work with). He said: “When we separate ourselves from the humanity of those we serve, we desecrate the meaning of being human.”

Hearing all those words and being with our managers had an effect on me. As the meeting progressed I took a step back and reframed my thought process. Being engaged is a choice, and I thought: Okay, I can either keep wallowing in the reasons I have to be unhappy, or I can put a smile on my face and re-engage. Since then I’ve re-engaged. I’ve thought about why I’m doing what I do. And it’s amazing how much better I feel! I realized I had to make a conscious choice to be positive and upbeat, even when I didn’t feel that way to begin with. And here’s a secret: It helps. I still have a lot to do. The weather is still lousy. But choosing to be engaged, and sometimes remaking that choice every day, really works.