Are we predisposed to think negatively?

Our first ancestors were hunter-gatherers that were conditioned to yield to negative thoughts to protect themselves from threats – predators, weather, hunger. Without fear, the early man had no chance of survival.

As society evolved, threats have become less severe. We no longer have to worry about animals waiting to pounce and yet our brains are still negatively oriented. We may have 100 wonderful things going on in our life, and yet we default to concentrating on the one or two negative things that may be happening at the time. According to the National Science Foundation, the average human has 70,000 thoughts per day. Only 5% of these thoughts are new. This means that 95% of these thoughts are old – memories, anxieties we constantly revisit and recycle.

The negative orientation of the mind is no longer effective as a survival instinct. It prevents us from achieving our full potential, leaving us victims of anxiety, and slaves to our past. In order to thrive, we must rewire our brains. This process is actually very straight-forward. Tough times are inevitable, but if we change our perspective, our chances of overcoming them are increased. Research shows that stress will only kill you if you believe that it can. The same principle is true of negativity – if we give in to it, we succumb to its power.

Businessman, author and philosopher W. Clement Stone had a simple approach in overcoming negativity. When life dealt a negative card, Clement Stone would ask “What’s good about this?”. He found that just asking the question took him out of victim mode. Instead of saying “Why is this happening to me?”, look for the positive and actively seek out a solution. If we train our brain to look for the good in the bad, we’re likely to find something positive. Even if you can’t see it immediately, the very process of asking takes you out of victim mode, enabling you to become proactive about the situation. This process immediately rewires our mindset, instantly equipping us with the means to overcome the challenge. Asking the question transforms us from victims to survivors.

Negativity is the enemy of thriving. If we are to move forward, we must focus on the good.