Battling Negativity

As a Cabinet we are reading The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz.  It is a follow up to the book The Power of Full Engagement, which I have commented about in earlier blogs.  Among the many insightful and stimulating observations, Schwartz chronicles what is called the “negativity bias.”  He comments: “We’re biologically wired to sense danger.  The result is that we notice what is wrong with our lives far more readily than we do what’s right.” (Schwartz, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, p.133).  This phenomenon is a part of our hard wired fight or flight response.  In Stone Age days, if you weren’t attuned to what was wrong, you often died (the saber-tooth tiger or its equivalent ate you!).  Today, such a response is often counterproductive.  It leads us away from properly understanding the situation we might find ourselves in.  It gives critics far more power, leverage and strength than they need and (often) deserve.  The “negativity bias” leads to reactive behavior.  (Think about the time you impulsively sent an email and then wished you hadn’t.) The response is not a shallow positive thinking but a deeper ability to reflect on life.  Recently my spiritual advisor invited me to connect such reading with the commandment to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.  Pointing out that the commandment of Sabbath rest has not been revoked, he gracefully challenged me on the importance of weekly rest as a way to walk with the Lord.  It gets us out of a negativity bias and helps us live in God’s grace.