“It is good to do uncomfortable things. It is weight training for life.

Anne Lamott

FIERCELY AWARE: The Call to Get Fierce: 1.3.2

Fighting with Your Brain

It doesn’t make sense.  Both research and our own experiences tell us that seeking and bringing out the best in ourselves and others is highly rewarding.  So why is negativity our default position? The truth is that our brains and evolution conspire against us.  Scientists believe that we have instincts left over from our hunter-gatherer ancestors, which, although were once vital, can be detrimental to us today.  To survive, our ancestors had to vigilantly scan the environment for threats – predatory animals, unfriendly neighbors and threatening weather.  Although we don’t need to do that today, the instinct lingers, leaving us hardwired to spot potential dangers in our environment.  If you have ever looked at a report card, performance review, or presentation feedback and raced to the see the worst grade, lowest average or negative remark first, you know exactly what I am talking about.

We don’t stop there.  We accentuate our negative scanning. When we recount the day’s events with family or friends, we are more likely to tell negative stories, tell more people those stories, and use more words when relaying our gloomy tales. Doing so increases our stress levels and diminishes our creativity and motivation to accomplish goals but, nevertheless, we persist.  Our negativity bias is so deeply embedded that we’re scarcely aware of it.  When I speak with groups, I frequently ask this question.  If a meeting you attended ran beyond its allotted time and you weren’t able to accomplish your to-do list for the day, would you tell anyone?  The room consistently fills with groans and laughter and people agree they would talk about it with others. But then I ask, if a meeting ended early, would you mention it? People rarely believe they would bother to share that more positive experience. Negativity bias seeps into our experience with the moment to moment choices we make cloaked as concerns, complaining and commiserating.

 

 

Whenever I think of this concept, I can’t shake the image of the Saturday Night Live skit, Debbie Downer.  I wonder if it’s so funny because it taps into a deeply embedded construct in all of us…or maybe it’s just that Rachel Dratch is so freaking funny!

The challenge is to extricate ourselves from the status quo of our negativity bias and embrace the freedom to create something fresh – and be fierce about it.

Sometimes when we get fierce, the status quo pushes back. Read how here.