Is it just me or do we tend to focus on negatives far more than positives? I want you to think of a news story you recently saw somewhere. Doesn’t matter where you saw it, just call to mind the very first news story you can muster.
Now, is it a story about something good happening? Or is it about something tragic? Or sad? Or even something that makes you angry?
I would bet money that 75% of you will think of a story that is not happy. You will instead be drawn to think about the Malaysian airlines plane that disappeared, or you’ll be drawn to a story of a recent murder, or something along those lines.
Why is that? Have you ever wondered?
I do all the time.
Why do we always seem to remember the bad stuff? The stuff that went wrong or messed everything up? Why can’t we remember the joys and triumphs? The things that actually deserve to be celebrated and shared? Negative emotions cause us to think more. We always spend more time thinking about what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how we could have fixed it. The information from negative experiences and events is therefore processed deeper and more thoroughly.
When we have positive experiences or hear about good things happening, we do not take as much time to process them, so we associate with them less and move on quicker. If you win $50 in a bet with someone, you are really excited. You’ve got an extra $50 you weren’t expecting, but within days it is forgotten. But if you lose $50 in a bet, you’re reminded of it every time you spend money in the following weeks. I know that’s what happens to me. If I lost $50 I would constantly be thinking about why it happened and what I could have done different to not lose that money.
During the college football season, I bet a UGA fan that Auburn would win their matchup. The loser had to wear the opposing school’s shirt at our next board meeting. Auburn won (If you don’t know how this game ended, I almost died). I was elated. We won the game and I won the bet. But honestly, I haven’t thought about it much since. However, my friend that lost the bet is reminded of it every time he sees me. And he mentions it just about every time we see each other.
We focus far more on negative things than positive.
So, here is my challenge for everyone:
Choose to focus on the positive things in life.
This is a two-way street for all of us. For the rest of our time here on Earth, we will have countless opportunities to both give and receive information (stories, news, events, etc). The only part we have any control over is ourselves.
Will we share more positive information with those we interact with, or will we overwhelm them by sharing the normal, negative stuff?
Similarly, we can choose to receive things differently than they are presented to us. Auburn lost the National Championship this year to Florida State. It was a tough loss that was only 13 seconds away from a different outcome. I could easily choose to dwell on the coulda, shoulda, wouldas of the game, but I didn’t. The day after the game I was approached by a number of people at work all wanting to talk about the game and how tough of a loss it was for Auburn and all that. Stuff that just would’ve helped me wallow in the loss, but I chose a different route.
My view on this event was simple. My school was represented in the National Championship game. They were a 14 point underdog and lost by giving up a touchdown with 13 seconds left. That’s it. Not to mention that the season prior to this one, Auburn won a total of 3 games. At the beginning of the season no one expected we would be playing for a National Title. Along the way we won the SEC Championship and got better every game. I loved seeing the team develop and grow. So yes we lost the game, but I had no desire to wallow in the loss. It happened, but the journey was entirely worth it, regardless of the score at the end of the game.
That’s how you receive information and spin it in a positive light. I will be honest, I don’t do this enough. I wish I could spin everything in a positive way, but it is very difficult. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort. It’s up to you whether you choose to focus on the negative or positive and be conscious at all of times of how you project and receive information.