Own Your Positivity — Fight Your Negativity
We are creatures of our own minds — and our own minds are wired against us at times. We have hard-wired instincts, so our minds are heavily influenced by primitive reactions. The one, soul crushing instinct that is a roadblock to unleashing your creativity and positivity is our instinctual negativity bias.
It is an adaptive evolutionary function. The negativity bias is based on our mind putting greater weight on the negative.
Your default mindset is focused on the worst case scenario. You see a crowd of happy go-lucky people and then you see one angry person. You instinctively put more emphasis on that angry person. It makes sense. As a caveman or cavewoman you saw some rustling in the forest and you thought, “Ah tiger — I should jet.” So it saved your life.
It is an important instinct. Yet we have evolved as humans, and you have the capacity to decide when you put weight on that instinct and when you don’t. You want to be purposeful in how you show up to your life and not just reacting out of instinct. We are living in a time of uncertainty and fear — so our fear instincts and our negativity instincts are in overdrive. Our negative self-talk is getting too much priority. We owe it to our future self to foster positivity and creativity habits to combat this negativity bias and live our lives with purpose.
“You can’t make positive choices for the rest of your life without an environment that makes those choices easy, natural, and enjoyable.”
— Deepak Chopra
Here are 4 keys to beating your negativity bias- P.A.Y.S.:
- Purposeful direction — First, acknowledge that you put too much emphasis on the negative and commit to starting your day in a positive mindset. With any habit (intentional and unintentional), and your negative self-talk is a bad habit, your behavior that forms into the habit involves (1) a trigger, (2) an action, and (3) a reward. For the bad habits born out of your negativity bias, the trigger may be an ambitious goal — like learning how to play piano, and the fear associated with it. The action may be your negative self talk where you rationalize why your goal doesn’t make sense or you convince yourself that it’s not worth it. The reward is that you don’t have to put in the work and “you saved yourself time.” You just succumbed to your negativity. When you have a purposeful direction, you are aware of your negativity bias and you purposefully lean into fighting that bias. So in this instance, the most important thing for you to do is to acknowledge you are being unjustly negative and choose to focus on the positive.
- Accountabilibuddies — You increase your chances of success when you bring others into your circle to help you along your journey. With the negativity bias, choose a friend who interacts with you a lot. Then let them know explicitly that you need them to call you out if you are being negative (and, because this is a natural instinct, you and your friend can agree to call each other out). You also increase your commitment and your chance of choosing positivity when you make a contract with your future self. That is, write down on paper a letter to your future self about your journey. “Dear future self, I chose to pause and be purposeful in how I approach life. I created a daily habit of pausing and reflecting on who I am and how I want to show up. For you, I choose to see my positive outlook as limitless, sustaining, and replenishing.”
- Your Space — As you remind yourself about who you are, you need to create a space to build your positive thinking muscle. You need a space that is yours that allows you to create your joy. It can be as simple as a chair and a table. You can imbue that table as your sanctuary by placing objects of love on it — a photo, a small object that makes you smile, a book that inspires you. This is your space. You choose a time in the day when you can be alone in that space — at least for 15 minutes. For me, I wake up before my family, I make myself some coffee, and I sit at my art table — the table where I draw. For at least 10 minutes, I take 5 deep breaths, I listen to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, and then I “doodle” — I merely create endless loops. I make sure I feel my feet on the floor. I then reflect on the positives of the previous day. That’s it.
- Self-Reflection– In line with the daily exercise of reflecting on the positive, make time for a weekly reflection about this entire process: What’s working and what is not working. For example, on Sundays you can reflect on what worked, how this time of self-reflection set you up for the day, and how this time is reintroducing yourself to yourself. This is time to give yourself a treat also — chocolate in your coffee maybe. You need to reflect and reward yourself for a job well done making time for yourself. You can also use this time to allow yourself to learn. That should be repeated — You need to give yourself permission to learn. If you mess-up or fail, give yourself permission to learn from it and don’t beat yourself up about it. Learn: What were the hurdles you faced making time for yourself? How is your accountabilibuddy making you stronger? What can you change to make the process more rewarding? If you find the negativity shadow creeping in through negative self-talk, refocus yourself on giving yourself permission to learn. So if that little voice states, “I failed to wake up early to take time for myself,” stop yourself and purposefully rephrase that statement to a learning activity, “I was not able to wake up on time each morning, is there a better time for me to do this activity? Should I split it up during the day? How can I research other people’s mindfulness routines?”
This is just a brief overview of your negativity bias and a way to combat it. This is a worthy fight — your future self will thank you.