By Tony Schwartz
Does this sound familiar? You’re feeling a bit uneasy – say, a tightness in your chest or a rumbling in your stomach. You search your mind for the cause, and you think of something unsettling that happened in the office yesterday, a difficult conversation you need to have or a deadline you’re facing on a project. Before you know it, worries are mounting in your mind, one feeding on the next.
It’s a phenomenon called “negativity bias.” “Over and over,” Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist, says, “the mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly and persistently than to equivalent good things.” Or as Roy Baumeister, a fellow psychologist, puts it, “It’s evolutionarily adaptive for bad to be stronger than good.”
True enough, if there’s a lion chasing you. Not so true sitting at your desk trying to work in a clear, focused way, which was precisely my goal on the recent morning that a succession of negative thoughts began to multiply in my mind.
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