Attitude is the ultimate buzzword. We use the word all of the time, but we don’t really define what it means. It’s a vague term we use to fit the narrative we want to create.

You hear about how important attitude is all the time. We say you can choose your own attitude. But we talk about attitude like it is simple. Decide you want to work hard and you will work hard today. Decide you want to have a great day and you’ll have a great day. If it was that simple and that easy to choose your attitude, I don’t think it would be that important to everyone.

It’s easy to say “have a great attitude.” But I don’t think your attitude is just simply a choice you make that day. Somebody who gets upset about something they care about doesn’t necessarily have a bad attitude. And someone who lets everything go and doesn’t rock the boat at all might have a good disposition, but are they taking things seriously enough to be successful?

Your attitude, to me, ends up being defined by one general question: What is really important to you? The things that matter to you are what shape your attitude, a lot more than a decision you make to just be positive and happy that day.

For example, if your team is really important to you, it’s hard to have a bad attitude about your playing time. If the most important thing is what happens to your team, you put that above what happens to you. That’s not to say you don’t want to play more or try and improve your chances to play – but not playing won’t affect your attitude.

If you are really about working on your game and getting better, then criticism from a coach won’t have a negative impact on you. You want to get better, and your coach is trying to make you better. No matter how they do it, if improving is important to you, your attitude towards criticism will reflect that.

If you are a team first guy, an official’s call won’t impact your approach to the next play. Criticism in a team film session will have positive impact on you. Practice at 7 AM on a Saturday will be an opportunity for you, not a pain in the ass.

You don’t get up at 6 AM to go lift weights and just decide to have a great attitude that day. You show up with the right attitude because improvement matters to you, and your team matters to you. You don’t decide to smile that day. People with a bad attitude don’t have the right perspective. People with the right attitude have a clear idea of what is important to them, and they take a mature approach.

You don’t choose your attitude. You choose what is important to you. Your attitude is a reflection of that.