Next time you're in a group setting take a vote by show of hands. Ask who thinks attitudes precede actions and who thinks actions precede attitudes. A number of people will grumble if you lay down the law and insist that they can only vote for one; nothing in the middle.
But my informal polling through the years indicates most people think attitudes precede actions, by significant margin. And why not? It just makes sense that our outer lives will be an expression of what's inside us. I couldn't agree more - other than when I disagree.
So I have to admit, the non-commits are probably right. Sometimes attitudes precede actions, but often actions precede attitudes.
Want to help a teen feel compassion? You can teach all the principles of generosity until you are blue in the face with little result, but take that same young person on a mission trip and he or she will come home feeling compassionate. Want to get excited about losing weight? Don't read another diet article. Just lose a few pounds and you'll tell everyone you know more than they ever wanted to know - and maybe more than you've actually figured out yourself - about your eating and exercise habits. Yep. No question. Action precedes attitude.
But there are too many exceptions to make a hard and fast rule on the topic. In 1968 Robert Rosenthal of Harvard published Pygmalion in the Classroom, the legendary study that showed how teacher expectations positively or negatively impacted student acheivement - the law of self-fulfilling prophecy where attitude goes before action.
So what comes first in the state of the US economy today? Do fundamental metrics change, causing investor, business, and consumer confidence to lift and turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy that drives growth? Or does the negative news cycle spin, which many are complaining is compounding problems, have to change before investors, businesses, and consumers break free from the current inertia? Will attitude or action come first in turning our economy around?
I'd ask for a show of hands but I'm not sure how I'll vote myself. On the other hand, did I mention that I lost a few pounds this past week?
Friday, March 20, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
In 1831 Alexander de Tocqueville was sent by the French government to study the American prison system. In typical French fashion, he took a couple wrong turns to enjoy his coffee at outdoor cafes, so when he returned to France in 1832, he provided a much wider view of the then fledgling country through his book, Democracy in America. Below are a few select quotes that continue to resonate today - including his wry observation on democracy and the ultimate bribe!
America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?
Consider any individual at any period of his life, and you will always find him preoccupied with fresh plans to increase his comfort.
Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.
In no other country in the world is the love of property keener or more alert than in the United States, and nowhere else does the majority display less inclination toward doctrines which in any way threaten the way property is owned.
Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.
The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.