Why we Focus on Negative and not Positive
When you think back on the last week, month, or year, what stands out the most in your mind?
If you’re like most people, negative experiences are what pop up first. They set us back, they make us uncomfortable, and they take up a whole lot of room in our minds.
There’s a good explanation of why this happens. There’s an even better explanation of why we don’t need to do this anymore.
Why we Tend to Dwell on the Negative
Imagine, for a moment, you are living 30,000 years ago. Your home is in a cave, and you’re out foraging and hunting every day just to survive. Stereotypes of the caveman aside, every single day is literally a life or death situation. You either eat and survive, or you become food for something else.
When you throw your spear and miss that tasty water buffalo that you’re trying to kill, that’s a pretty big negative experience. You don’t want to do that again, so your brain focuses on what went wrong.
When you hit up your favorite berry spot, only to find that the berries aren’t in season, that’s a big waste of energy. You focus on the negative and learn that early spring isn’t a good time for berries.
Relying on the lessons learned from the negative was how we survived.
How to Avoid Negative Thoughts and Focus on Positivity
The problem arises now that we don’t need those mental tricks anymore in order to survive. It seems that the brain doesn’t quite keep up with cultural change quite as quickly as we would like it to. So now, when we’re mocked for a poor presentation, when we blunder our way through a job task, or when we stub our toe against the corner of the bed, our brain immediately goes into survival mode analyzing what we did and how to avoid it in the future.
Those things suck, but they’re not life or death. And we waste precious energy while dwelling on them.
Fortunately, we can train our minds to work more efficiently, and it only takes a matter of a few seconds to do so.
After every situation where you immediate go to the negative thoughts, concentrate on three things.
Notice – Notice that you are focusing on negativity. Notice what went wrong and what you’re thinking about after the situation.
Shift – Consciously shift your focus from the negative to a positive. Something as closely related to the situation as possible will help the shift flow more seamlessly.
Rewire – Rewire your brain, through the previous two, in order to focus on positives whenever something happens to you. Dwell on that positive for a while to confirm this rewiring.
How’s this all play out?
You send a proposal to a client. They come back with a scathing critique on why it won’t work. Instead of dwelling on the bad and coming up with all sorts of scenarios on why they hate you, notice that you’re spinning into a negativity rabbit hole.
Shift your thinking to remember how great of a client they are. If they’re new, shift your thinking to how many great people you have in your life, and how many of them love your insights and ideas.
Rewire that negativity thinking into positivity thinking by dwelling on the greatness in your life for at least 10 or 15 seconds.
It’s not going to happen instantly, but after a few trials of refocusing your thought process, it’s going to start coming naturally.
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