The 4 Steps I Took To Change My Attitude and Live a Happier Life.

The 4 Steps I Took to Change My Attitude and Live a Happier Life.


“The last great human freedom is the ability to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” 

Viktor Frankl

I know what it’s like to live with a negative attitude.  Being the person that always saw the glass as half empty.  The person that always compared myself to others. Listening to and often believing the lies people would tell me about who I was.  Living a life where it seemed no matter what I did it was never enough.  Always looking at the past and asking myself “Why?”

After years of being this person, I snapped out of it and said: “Enough is enough”.  I knew I had to change and that change had to happen within me. I could no longer allow my past mistakes to affect my present mood.  I had to stop comparing myself to other people.  Most of all I had to stop giving a damn about what other people thought of me.  I could no longer allow others to write the narrative that is my life.  I had to take back control and that started with changing my attitude.

1. I Believed I Could Change My Attitude.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

I knew I had to change my attitude if my life was ever going to change.  Still, I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage this on my own.   Men typically don’t like asking for help or even admitting that we need help. We prefer to “Work things out on our own”. Well, I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so I decided it was time for me to become serious about my faith and make it the foundation for my life. I knew the longer I put this off, the harder the change would be to make.

I had to honestly seek God for peace in my life.  I had to have a conviction that was unshakable regardless of my circumstances. I knew that with God’s help I would be able to have victory over my negative attitude in times where being negative was once my automatic response.  I recognized that if I chose to do things according to God’s will, that we will help me do his will.  But if I chose not to do things according to his will, we won’t.  God will not work in unsurrendered territory. I believed I could change, and with God’s help, I did.

Two drivers licences. the one on the left was taken in 2009.  The one on the right was taken in 2016.  My face says it all.  One I was ultra negative, the other I after I decided to live a positive life and be content.

Two drivers licences. the one on the left was taken in 2009. The one on the right was taken in 2016. My face says it all. One I was ultra negative, the other I after I decided to live a positive life and be content.

Once you believe you can change, you have to want to change.  If you believe a change of attitude can happen and want it bad enough, it will happen as long as you take the necessary steps to do so.  To live a happier life is a choice that I made.  I chose to be happier and I chose to change my life. That change meant that I had to consciously do things differently.

2. I Stopped Living In The Past.

We all have regrets in life.  Things we did in the past, we wished we would have done differently.  I was constantly living in the past and dwelling on my mistakes.  Replaying the events of my life over and over again until it weighed on me so much that I fell into a deep depression, which at times had me lying in my bed, or on my couch, for days asking  Why?” and “What if?”

The past is exactly that, the past. We can’t change it and we can’t go back. Yeah, there are things you would have done differently.  Yes, there are people you would have never gotten involved with. Maybe you regret your job and wish you would have chosen another career path.  There can be a hundred “Why?” and “What if?” scenarios in your life, but you can’t change them now. You can either live in the past and be miserable for the rest of your life or you can accept the fact that you made mistakes, dust yourself off, and move on.  You can’t change the past, but you can change your attitude and stop letting your past mistakes affect your future happiness and the choices you make.

“Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens

I decided that I would no longer live in the past.  It's useless, so why bother.  I had to learn to forgive myself and move on. Yes, I said I had to forgive myself. By dwelling in the past, I was telling myself that I was nothing but the essence of all my faults and I would never be anything more because I refused to forgive myself and go.

What many of you need to do is forgive yourself.  How is it we can often forgive others but hold grudges against ourselves? When you constantly dig up old memories and beat yourself up over them, you are holding a grudge against yourself and unless you forgive yourself, you may not be able to move forward.  Learn from your past, don’t live in it.

Related Article: "How Holding On To The Past Prevented Me From Having A Successful Future."

3. I Learned To Be Content

People who aren’t content will never be satisfied in life.  They will constantly compare where they are and what they have to someone else and get jealous or depressed.  I see all the time people who aren’t content unless they wear a certain brand of clothing, drive a certain car, live in a certain size home, or whatever.   This reminds me of a quote from George Carlin, where he said, “We buy sh*t we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like”.   I would even go further and say to impress people we don’t even know.  Their sense of worth doesn’t come from within, it comes from the outside.

I now know that Comparison destroys Contentment.  Being content means being satisfied with what you have and not worry about what other people possess.  If you are constantly comparing your life to someone else’s you will always be discontent.  You will spend all your time looking at what you don’t have and never appreciate the things you do have. You can choose to compliment others on their success and be happy with who you are, or you can dwell in your own never-ending pity party.

In his book “Making Things Right When Things Go Wrong”, Dr. Paul Faulkner once told a story about a guy who was never content with what he had.

There’s this boy in junior high school.  He doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. A fellow says, “You’re a happy guy, aren’t you?”

He says, “No, sir. If only I had a girlfriend, I’d have it made.”Now he’s in high school and going steady with a girl.  The fellow says, ‘You’re a happy guy now.”

Now he’s in high school and going steady with a girl.  The fellow says, ‘You’re a happy guy now.”

He says, “No, it doesn’t do much good to have a girlfriend if you don’t have wheels. If only I had a car, I’d be happy.”

Now the boy has a car, a girlfriend, the whole bit.  And the fellow says, “well, you’ve got it made now.”

And the boy replies, “I’m not sure about that. If only I could go to college, get my degree and get married, then I’d be happy for sure.”

The fellow sees him a few years later. The boy (now a young man) has graduated from college and married.  So he says, “Surely, You’ve got it made now.”

He replies, No, but if I only had a good job and could make a down payment on a house, I’d be the happiest guy you ever saw.”

The fellow sees him later in front of his new house and says, “At last, you’re happy right?”

“No, sir.  Have you ever tried to raise teenagers? If I could just get my kids through college, I’d have it made.” And later he complains, “I don’t have adequate retirement. If I could just buy me a little place up in Arkansas, to retire and raise a few chickens, I’d have it made.”

Would you believe it? The fellow is driving down a little gravel road up in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas years later and sees that same guy.  He’s sitting in his rocking chair on the porch of a neat little house.  Out back are some chicken houses. He gets out, runs up to the guy on the porch and says with a big smile, “Wow! Here it is.  It’s everything you’ve ever wanted, really worked for, struggled for and paid for.  You’ve really got it made now! You’re happy!”

The old man says, “Man, I’ve got rheumatism, my wife’s got lumbago, and the hens aren’t laying.  But one of these days, in the sweet by and by, I’m going to be a truly happy man.”

Do you know anyone like that?  That person that never seems to be satisfied? This guy was never going to be content, never going to be happy, because he always saw the glass half empty.  I was just like this guy.  I always found something to complain about instead of being thankful for the things I had.  I would see other people with more material wealth than I or with a seemingly perfect family life and become bitter.  I wanted the nicer home, the nicer car, the beautiful wife, kids with the 4.0 grade average in school.  I was so busy being in everyone else’s business that I couldn’t mind my own.  I was so busy looking out the window at everyone else instead of looking in the mirror at myself.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any, and every, situation whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:12-13  

Many take the scripture Philippians 4:13 completely out of context.  The Scripture reads “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Like many scriptures, they fail to read the scriptures before or after it.  When Paul wrote this he wasn’t saying with the help of Christ, he could leap tall buildings in a single bound or outrun a locomotive. He wasn’t stating that with Christ help he can fulfill any selfish or materialistic wish he desired.  What he was saying is that he can be content because he believed that with Christ’s help he could learn to be content in good and bad situations.

Being content means having the ability to be satisfied with what you have and not worry about what everyone else does. I am not saying it’s wrong to want nice things. The problem comes when you are always ungrateful for what you have and are consumed with getting more.  Just like the guy in the story you will never have enough and never be satisfied. You will live a life looking at what you don’t have, instead of being grateful for what you do.

4. I Changed My Actions

”Once you know everything there is to know about you, you know all you need to know.” Danny Reynolds.

Years ago I was involved in martial arts.  My teacher, Danny Reynolds, had two sayings, he would repeat often. One was, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect”.  The other was, “Once you know everything there is to know about you, you know all you need to know.”

If you want to have a more positive attitude, you have to practice acting positively. Like any skill, the more you practice it perfectly, the better you will be at it.  I took steps to be a more positive person, to have a positive disposition. Also, knowing yourself completely means you know what areas in your life you need to work on.  For me this meant I had to literally stop complaining so much. Whether it was my financial situation, my son’s grades, my job, whatever it was, I decided to stop complaining so much.  I became more outgoing, I recognized who my real friends were and spent more time with them.  I also spent more quality time with my sons.  I did things that brought joy to my life and I would become a more positive person and act the part as well.  I discovered that the more I practiced being positive the easier it got.

“All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15

Terrell Cotton

Terrell Cotton is a motivational blogger and a full-time single father of two boys who are his heart and soul.  His blog,, is dedicated to helping men become better versions of themselves by building upon authentic manhood, fatherhood, faith, and entrepreneurship.




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