Can We Actually Change Our Attitudes? The Real Truth About Attitude And How To Improve It

Attitude Is Everything

How many times have we heard somebody telling us to “change our attitude”? Is it really possible? If so, how do we do it?

In life we have to face some scenarios and experiences that we can’t control, they end up making us feel bitter, sad, and like we can’t stand a situation any longer. But there are some things we can actually do to face hard times with a different perspective.

“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” Jeff Keller

Our attitudes are built since childhood and can change with time or specific events. Today I would like to tell you how to change your attitude and discuss if you actually should do it.

What Is An Attitude?

Psychologists have been discussing attitudes and attitude changes for years; they describe it as beliefs and behaviors towards someone or something, and fortunately for us, since attitudes are not innate, we can change them.

Attitudes are built on our social beliefs and influences, our motivation and values. When we are little, we obey our most primitive instincts, hence, our attitudes are pretty basic: we either like or dislike something depending on the reward it has for us.

For example, a kid likes chocolate because it is sweet, but he rejects all kinds of vegetables because he doesn’t like the taste.

An attitudinal change in this example would come by the influence of the mother, who punishes him for not eating the vegs, or when he grows a little and starts to understand vegetables are a fundamental part of human’s health.

But of course, if it was that easy, we wouldn’t feel sad or frustrated towards hard times and we would face bad times with a smile all the time.

Changing an attitude can take weeks, and sometimes years.

How Do Attitudes Change?

According to many social scientists, there are three pillars of attitudinal change: identification, internalization, and compliance.


Identification is a process that makes us change our beliefs, and therefore, our behavior, to be like someone we admire. And sometimes, quite the opposite.

We may feel identified with a political speech, but if the politician or the party claiming it suddenly seems involved in a terrible corruption scandal that touches our principles, it may take time, but we are no longer emotionally connected by this person or speech.


Internalization refers to changes in our beliefs as well, it happens when we notice that the change gives us a more desirable reward than the current attitude. Perhaps this year we don’t want to vote for a Republican party, but if we perceive that the opponents have nothing to offer us and the Republicans are actually doing an “alright” job, we may either vote for them or not vote at all.


And then we have compliance, the change that occurs due to the consequences expected. If we grew up in a democratic affiliated family, it may be very hard to tell them we want to vote for a Republican, so we hide it or avoid politic discussions to avoid creating an uncomfortable situation.

But if we feel the slightest level of doubt in our family, that’s a window for us to express ourselves, the terrible consequence of facing our family seems less important, so we dare to change.

A real attitude change involves those three aspects, but it is not that easy to achieve since we are not rat labs.

Humans develop their lives in a very dynamic context, so actually seen the window of opportunity, realizing that something does not go along with our values, or accepting admiration and influence from somebody may be a challenge.

What Can We Do To Change Our Attitude?

It doesn’t matter how many people tell us we have to change our attitude, if are not able to see why they are saying that, but most importantly, if we are not convinced about it, it simply won’t happen.

Smokers, for example, are reminded every day that they shouldn’t smoke. It has been proven that it is dangerous, that many people find it annoying, and that it’s expensive. But still, smokers have a hard time quitting.

That happens because the cigarette gives them an immediate reward, which makes their beliefs towards health and other people’s comfort, matter less.

What we can do to overcome bad situations and to have a different attitude is to look for role models, not necessarily famous ones.

And that’s something people that face addictions usually do in focus groups and therapy.

We could also start by understanding if there is actually something we need to change. Is it worthy? Will it make us feel good somehow? How will it benefit us in long terms?

Make A Change

Thinking about this can be overwhelming, but if you skip this part and rush to change an attitude towards something or someone, you will fail in short time because you are not motivated nor convinced it’s something necessary.

Optimism is a choice, but a very convenient one. We are allowed to feel scared and worried towards change, but once we understand it’s something we need to do, we focus our thoughts and energy on the change necessary.

For example, you may not be able to quit your job. The job you know you dislike but without any other job offerings or economic stability to be by yourself for a while, it’s almost impossible to quit so you do it reluctantly.

Instead of complaining about not being able to quit, try to see it as part of the path to achieve something better. Don’t wake up every morning thinking you are miserable, get out of bed thinking “yeah, this is a terrible job, but I am going to do everything I can to do it well and to look for a solution”.

To help you with these tasks, find someone at your workplace (or out of it) that’s going on through a similar situation but still stands still, make it your role model to endure.

Try to associate your job with positive things, like a paycheck, even though it’s little, it’s better than nothing. And move! Start looking for new opportunities, a new place to live, find support in friends and family. So there you have it, identification, internalization, and compliance. The three most basic things you need to change an attitude.

Image By: Oliver Sjöström

Excellent Books:

  • Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill
  • Attitude: Develop a Winning Mindset on and off the Court by Jay Wright
  • Attitude Is Everything: Change Your Attitude… Change Your Life! by Jeff Keller
  • Lord, Change My Attitude: Before It’s Too Late by James MacDonald
  • Attitude 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know by John C. Maxwell

26 thoughts on “Can We Actually Change Our Attitudes? The Real Truth About Attitude And How To Improve It”

    • Hi Steve, thank you so much for letting me know! Absolutely love the content of your blog and photos! So many wonderful facts, I feel like I don’t know anything 🙂 But, just wonderful! Looking forward for more amazing articles Steve! Please let me know when you have new articles, would love to read them! Have a wonderful weekend. Hope you feel good, praying for your health! Blessings!


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