We’ve all experienced it. Our boss seems distant and a little cold. A call we expect doesn’t come. We pitch for business and hear…crickets. In no time we’re convinced that it was something we did—or didn’t do. We get down in the dumps and drag others along with us. It is a tremendous energy drain. And the fact is, we don’t have the facts to support our conclusions.
Why do we do this? Our Stone Age brain.
The Stone Age brain is wired to pay attention and react to any perceived danger. Not doing so in that era likely meant death. Now there are a lot fewer saber-toothed tigers roaming our streets, but we’re still on the lookout.
Don’t believe it? Look no further than your past performance reviews. I bet you can remember almost every “area for improvement” ever noted…and very few positives.
What’s the practical implication of being wired to focus on the negative? We experience all the negative emotions, fear, anxiety, and distress generated by the scenarios we create, whether they’re warranted or not. We drain our energy worrying about things that may not be true. And because emotions are contagious, we take our teams down with us.
The next time you feel yourself getting agitated about something, challenge your assumptions. Do you have proof that whatever you’re upset about is true, or have you connected two thoughts and made a supposition? Create a neutral or more empowering conclusion like, “They were so blown away by our presentation, they’re busy figuring out if they can give us the business without a formal pitch.” That conclusion is just as possible as your negative assumption, with the added benefit of leaving you feeling energized and positive. Why choose to feel bad when you don’t have to?