You’re supposed to have a positive attitude. Right? You’ve been told that a thousand times.

But what does it mean to have a positive attitude?

Does it mean that you would never feel down? That seems impossible. My training in psychology tells me that it is normal to experience a wide variety of emotions, from the pleasant to the unpleasant. In fact, experiencing a wide range of emotions gives life a bit more spice and excitement.

Does it mean that all your problems in life and at work would be automatically eliminated if you have a positive attitude? I doubt it. I’ve interviewed thousands of people in the organizations where I speak. Some of them have a very positive attitude, while others seem to have a very negative attitude. But they all had one thing in common. They all have problems.

A positive attitude does not necessarily guarantee everlasting happiness or a trouble-free life. So what is it? And how do you get a truly healthy, powerful, positive attitude working for you? Use these strategies.

1. Understand the two-sided nature of a positive attitude.

First of all, a positive attitude is fuel. It gives you the fuel or the energy to keep on keeping on.

It is not wild-eyed, turbo-charged behavior that is going in a hundred different directions. That’s stress. And it is not a fanatical commitment to one and only one goal in life; that would lead to a life of imbalance and workaholism.

Second, a positive attitude is perspective. Even though you may not have the best of everything, you make the best of everything. You find the good in any situation.

As a 16-year old Jewish refugee, hiding from the Nazis in World War II, Anne Frank displayed that kind of perspective. In her diary, she wrote, "Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!"

2. Embrace the importance of a positive attitude.

Champions truly understand the importance of a positive attitude. They know it so much more than a smile and a Pollyannaish set of high hopes. They know the research backs them up.

Dr. Martin Seligman, for example, discovered that attitude was a better predictor of success than I.Q., education, grade point average, or almost any other factor. He found that people with “positive attitudes” stay healthier, have better relationships, and go further in their careers. He even found that people with positive attitudes make more money.

The respected TV commentator, Hugh Downs, understands the importance of a positive attitude. He says, "A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but a person with a certain set of attitudes."

3. Live a positive attitude.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel positive. You can still live a positive day, and with enough practice, your positive days turn into an enduring positive attitude and an eventual positive life.

It’s something that losers haven’t learned to do. They waste their emotional energy muttering such pitiful comments as "Another day, another dollar" or "I've got just five more years, three months, and two days and I'm out of here."

People like that are not living their lives. They're simply enduring them. They’re like the losers the Scottish warrior Braveheart was referring to when he said, "Everyone dies, but not all people actually live."

What about you? Are you truly living your life now? Are you getting in shape … now? Losing weight … now? Improving your relationships … now? Are you accomplishing your goals … now?

Or are you waiting to live -- until the kids leave home, until you get remarried, find a new job, buy a different house, have less stress, finally retire, or just plain feel like it? If any of that sounds like you, you do not have the kind of positive attitude that will lead you towards higher and higher levels of success.

By contrast, I am reminded of one 83-year old woman who wrote to her friend about living a positive attitude. She wrote:

"Dear Bertha, “I'm not waiting for anything anymore. We use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the first Amaryllis blossom. I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift from God.”

That’s what living a positive attitude is all about.

What about you? Do you have a really positive attitude? I certainly hope so … because good attitudes bring good results … and bad attitudes bring bad results. It’s as simple as that. And getting a positive attitude come alive for you is as simple as starting with these three strategies.

Author's Bio: 

As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman has helped more than one million people transform their lives through the power of a positive attitude. In his book, "The Payoff Principle: Discover the 3 Secrets for Getting What You Want Out of Life and Work," he reveals the strategies that will take anyone from ordinary to extraordinary. For more information, go to http://thepayoffprinciple.com.