If you're at the point where you're seriously looking to make a change, such as becoming more positive in a negative workplace, it's up to you. You make the first move.

The step to take is a bold one: Change your attitude.

That's not easy to do, I know. Therefore you need a plan of action that works. Here are four habits of the most positive people:

1. Identify the improper attitude behind the unacceptable behavior

Remember that behavior often reflects what we feel about the world around us. For example, if you're a gossiper, ask yourself these questions:

  • How does it make me feel when I spread rumors or talk badly about someone behind his or her back?
  • Why do I need this feeling?
  • What does my behavior reveal to others about my character?

If you're like most people, you'll probably gain some insight into how you are perceived when spreading gossip.

Most people I know who ask themselves this find out that they are, well, desperate for attention. And with good self-awareness, they will soon realize that others perceive them as, well, pretty pathetic.

While getting to the core of your attitude and why it influences your behavior isn't a cure-all solution, it's a great first step. It also helps to expose the things that you've been hiding from yourself.

2. Determine what supports the attitude or behavior

An attitude can change like the weather. But when it doesn't, it may mean other factors support and feed the attitude--such as a destructive and toxic culture at work (or a broken support system at home)--and keep the person from changing.

Sticking with the theme of gossip, a willingness to actively participate in it and listen to it is the support system that keeps feeding the attitude, leading you to gossip again.

The good news is, when you're consciously aware that listening to gossip leads you to gossip, you've got a pretty good start on your road to change.

3. Once you understand what supports the negative attitude or behavior, take the steps to weaken those supports

For example, if certain water-cooler conversations or derogatory groupthink by your peers stimulate the wrong thoughts about work relationships, do you have to expose yourself to those things?

Seriously now, are you being forced to fill your mind with someone else's toxic thoughts? Are you being dragged to the break room where rumors and innuendoes fill the air?

Truth is, negative attitudes that are regularly reinforced don't tend to decline. They need to be cut off at the root.

Once you've done all you can to break down the support structure keeping you stuck in the cycle of negative behavior, here's the final step.

4. Have positive substitutes for the negative attitudes or behaviors

It's important to know what to choose for your substitutions. Quitting smoking only to gain 50 pounds because you've replaced it with snacking on potato chips every time you have an urge is probably not a good plan.

To change behavior, you have to replace it with an option that will deliver better results.

So have a strategy in mind. Plan to attack your negative behavior at the spot where it's weakest, replacing it with a more positive attitude.

If you really want to stop being around gossip, put limits on those who do it. Turn down lunch invitations from toxic peers, and walk away from parking lot conversations that go south.

Then seek work relationships with positive people. You'll know them after a while; they're the ones who go on about their business and never get sucked into negativity.

While negative peers are complaining and campaigning with gossip, positive peers are thinking ahead about how to improve a bad situation, taking accountability for their actions, and moving toward contributing to solutions to organizational problems.

Parting thoughts

Attitude usually determines behavior. But in this case, the new behavior conditions your attitude. For example, after drinking water in place of soda for some time, it becomes a habit that you like. So it is with your attitude. Bad ones need to be replaced by better, more positive, ones.