“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
– Maya Angelou
If you have a tendency for number 3, there is a psychological explanation for this – the so-called ‘negativity bias’. We’re hardwired by nature to pay more attention and react more quickly and more strongly to negative than to positive information.
Neuropsychological studies show that the brain automatically reacts to stimuli it deems negative with a greater surge in electrical activity. Thus, our thoughts, attitudes and behaviours are more heavily influenced by downbeat news than good news. We’re also likely to be afraid of things disproportionately to the evidence, e.g., most people who are afraid of flying have little fear of driving even though their daily chance of being killed in an car crash is much higher than their chance of dying in an air crash. (Source)
There are always 2 things at play here and that you need to be aware of:
- your brain: hard-wired to react more and more quickly to bad news than good news
- the outer world (family, friends, colleagues, politics): who often have an interest in beating the scary drum (emotional blackmailing, job promotion, political votes…).
So when bad news hits, it is always good to get a little perspective.
The dictionary defines perspective as “the capacity to view things in their true relation or relative importance.”
1. You are here.
2. Stop and ask yourself:
- what am I struggling with? (what is really the problem? Is it true?)
- how do I really feel? (is it really my thoughts or do I care more about what people think?)
- why do I feel this way? (has past experience influenced my judgement?
This will create a clear overview of where you are in the situation.
3. Accept that things change.
People change. The world changes. Everything is in constant movement. As Heraclitus said ‘Change is the only constant.’ So let go of your need for things to remain a certain (your) way. They won’t. And the faster you become comfortable with change, the better you will be able to deal with it.
4. Accept things you cannot change.
You cannot change company restructuring, suicide bombers, your partner or your boss. You can only change your attitude.
Recognize your role in the situation. Because there is always a dynamic and you’re part of it.
Stay positive and then move on.
5. Stop worrying.
Most of the time we spend far more brain energy worrying about an issue than we do actually suffer with the reality of it.
6. Stop comparing yourself and your actions to others.
Because it is unfair (no one is like you, has your brain, your past and your influences). And because they don’t really care.
7. Focus on what you can do.
Because there always is something you can do or a place you can start.
8. Create attainable goals.
Make them ‘do-able’ (ie. call your new superior with your ideas on how this could work).
9. Avoid the dramatic and negative.
Don’t hang with moaners and groaners. Don’t listen to the news or the gossip unless you have to. Surround yourself with more positivity.
10. One day you will die.
Plain, old, simple truth. So live your life wisely and in color. Create the stories people will want to tell at your funeral. Be a blessing to the people around you.
11. You are not dead yet.
So you might as well make the most of it while you’re this little speck in the Universe. Stop waiting for life to be easier, kinder, calmer, more helpful. Stop seeing yourself as a victim. Go do the things you (secretly) dream about (go back to 5, 6 and 7). “How you live each day is, of course, how you live your life”