Is the Right Attitude Enough?

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 09-23-20

Robert Fritz is the person who best articulated the concept of creative tension which I brought into the lean community as a perspective that in many ways personifies the lean thinking process. Because the book that exposed this concept to the majority of people is The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, Robert Fritz doesn’t get enough credit for his contributions.

He posted earlier this year about how the “right” attitude was not enough, leading off with this: 

“There is an especially American idea about attitude. The thought is if you have the right attitude, everything will work out. If you don’t, well then… Sorry, Pal. This idea infiltrates our entire culture. We can see this assumption in the movies from the 30s and 40s, the lead characters have to have spunk, grit, and that American CAN DO! outlook. And on and on the notion of attitude goes on.”

But the evidence does not point to this being enough, as there is relatively little correlation to success. You all know plenty of people with a great attitude but things don’t necessarily work out. This doesn’t mean that a bad attitude is a good idea, it simply means that a positive attitude is insufficient to create the outcomes that you want. 

I liken this thought to a favorite Bible passage of mine. While I mostly leave religion out of my posts, this particular passage I leave on my goals worksheet as a reminder, from James 2:17: “Faith, without corresponding action, is dead.” So, while the smallest of passages, it appears that the Bible agrees with Robert Fritz’s point, or more accurately, the other way around. 

The key is action, but action inspired by understanding the current situation, understanding your goal and using the tension in that gap to drive your creativity and resulting actions to close that gap, or at least pursue closing the gap. 

So keep your motivational Instagram posts. Keep your positive attitude. Keep your can-do spirit. Just ensure it is backed up with thoughtful, purposeful action because ultimately that is what will bring you what you desire.