Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, was fond of saying, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t … you’re right.” What he meant was, it doesn’t matter where you come from, or how much talent you have, or how smart you are. What matters is that you believe that you can achieve your goals.
Henry Ford wasn’t the only one who made this observation. The motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to say, “your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” Again, your skills, your smarts and your background have little to do with your chances for success. It is your attitude that leads you there more than anything else.
Here’s another from Napoleon Hill: whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve. Napoleon Hill came to this conclusion after interviewing hundreds of successful people, looking for what they all had in common. It wasn’t education, background or training. The only thing they all had in common was that they saw themselves achieving their goal.
Now the scientists are on board
These are not just the thoughts of modern American writers and industrialists. These ideas have been studied in the last few decades, and it turns out, there is a lot of truth to them. Study after study shows that attitudes can impact whether a student does well in a Math class, or an online class, or throughout an academic program.1,2 Simply believing you can do it leads to a positive attitude, which leads to positive actions, and positive results.
The struggle is real
Imagine this scenario. Your first exam in physical therapy school is coming up. You’ve been struggling in class, especially on the most recent quizzes. Your attitude is that the exam is probably not going to go well. You see a bad grade in your future. As you sit down to study, you start to think that this is way harder than you expected and you don’t think you can do it. Your anxiety level increases, and soon you can only focus on how bad you think you’re going to do. Instead of studying with your precious limited time, you are worrying. This leads to doing poorly on the exam, reinforcing this cycle, and the low success attitude.
The success is real too
What if instead, you believed that you were going to do very well on the exam.
Sure the quizzes haven’t gone as you expected, but those experiences just show you what you still need to work on. So when you sit down to study, believing in your ability to pass the test, your mind is not bogged down by worry, and free to focus on the material you need to learn. Since your studying is more effective, you do well on the exam.
Of course, you can’t just want it and believe it. You have to put the time and effort in to get it. Attitude goes hand in hand with the concept of grit. Grit is the ability to work hard and get the job done even in the face of what seem to be insurmountable obstacles. We cover grit in this post.
The best part about attitude is that you are the only one who can control yours. You get to decide whether you think you can do this or not. So, make the smart choice to believe in yourself, and you will do great.
If you're interested in learning more about Napoleon Hill and his book, "Think and Grow Rich," check out this video by FightMediocrity on YouTube.
- Cereijo M. Attitude as Predictor of Success in Online Training. International Journal On E-Learning [serial online]. October 2006;5(4):623-639. Available from: PsycINFO, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 22, 2014.
- Spencer A. Attitudes Matter: An Examination Of The Relationship Between Student Attitudes Toward Mathematics And Success In Middle School Algebra 1 [e-book]. US: ProQuest Information & Learning; 2013. Available from: PsycINFO, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 22, 2014.