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6 Disciplines for Eliminating Self-Defeating Attitudes

During the darkest days of World War II, when the Allies were struggling and losing on every front, Winston Churchill had the uncanny capacity to quiet his active mind by focusing on some entirely new — often offbeat — activity and giving it his undivided attention. Later, he could return to the strategies of meeting head-on the hated German war machine with his keen mind rested and refreshed.

I can’t think of many people in the history of the world who have held more responsibility in their hands or had more monstrous crises to face than Winston Churchill during the years when he was prime minister of England. However, not everyone realizes he was able to face up to the sort of challenges that would have killed a dozen lesser individuals because of a pattern of behavior he had developed early on — a system for eliminating self-defeating attitudes. Fortunately, Churchill’s system is bound by neither time nor geography and can operate as freely and effectively in the wars you and I fight in our minds today.


In the context of learning to change gears while in the center of mental conflict, I once heard commentator Earl Nightingale read a quote by Winston Churchill that explained how the great statesman could concentrate on the many affairs of government without becoming stressed. He would consciously force himself to think about things that were completely unrelated to the problems before him.

Winston Churchill knew how to tap into one of the primary antidotes for emotional exhaustion: Change your focus momentarily so you can come back to face your challenges with fresh insights. Without using the exact words, Churchill was sharing with us one of the keys to regaining control of our lives.

We all know how a negative life view can keep us trapped, fearful, and stuck with choices that ruin any opportunity we might have for success. Let’s look at six proven, practical disciplines that, when implemented, can turn an attitude of defeat and despair into hope, energy, and confidence.

1. Review and renew your attitude daily, ready to change your focus so as to embrace optimism over pessimism.

2. Get physical, as exercise can enable you see problems with new eyes and, in fact, even alter your attitude.

3. Become accountable, ready and willing to accept the truth as shared with us by trusted friends, and as realized with our own eyes, ears and realizations.

4. Learn to be content with what you have, as wise men and women know that happiness comes from accepting the impossible, doing without the indispensable, and bearing the intolerable.

5. Relinquish your anger, a natural emotion that serves a healthy purpose but can become harmful when it is our focus or a continual part of our personality.

6. Clean house emotionally, taking steps to sweep away stress and self-defeating attitudes.

As you begin practicing the six disciplines, you will discover many wonderful things begin to happen in your life that help you refocus your priorities and reduce your level of emotional exhaustion. But just as the appearance of one robin does not promise a spring, so you must trust these disciplines for the long haul rather than expecting overnight success.

SOURCE: Chapter 7“Six Disciplines for Eliminating Self-Defeating Attitudes” in How to De-Stress Your Life by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.

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