You know how when things seem to be going well for you, something usually happens to mess it all up? Everything seems to be right in the world, and then suddenly it all comes crashing down because one, little thing got in the way. Whether it’s something major or minor, we can’t help but turn our focus onto it and let it consume us. It’s like a car accident – it’s awful and horrific, but we can’t tear our eyes away. We have to focus on the negative even when there are all sorts of positive things happening in our lives.
Why is this, though? Focusing on the negative is such a silly thing to do, and it only serves to make us less happy than we could be. Yet, we insist on doing so. Is it simply human nature, and there’s nothing we can do about it? Maybe, but are we really willing to give up that much control over our lives? Wouldn’t it be better if we at least tried to find a different approach?
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When we turn on the evening news, the mass majority of the stories focus on negative events. This creates an idea in our heads that there’s far more negativity in the world than positivity. However, if we were to expose ourselves to more positive stories and events, we would begin to think of the world in a better light. This is essentially the basis of Positive Psychology.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Positive Psychology, it’s the study of happiness and what makes life worth living. Those of you who know me personally, I know what you’re thinking – how could I, a generally cynical and sarcastic person, be a fan of something called Positive Psychology? Well, it might sound like a bunch of doughy-eyed, peace and love baloney, but it actually touches on some interesting and important concepts. The ideas behind it are what make it worth looking into.
Below, you’ll find a talk by Shawn Achor. Rather than trying to fumble together an explanation of this particular branch of psychology myself, I’m recommending you listen to his talk. It’s a light-hearted and entertaining explanation of how we can benefit from changing the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us. He brings up several good points, and I genuinely think everyone could benefit from listening to this talk.
A Few Extra Thoughts
In this talk, Shawn Achor touches on the idea of success, which is probably one of the things I like about it the most. The way he explains how the students are constantly focused on improving reminds me of my own college days. It took me a long time to get out of the “if I achieve this, then I’ll be happy” mindset, but I’m grateful I finally broke free. It was only after I stopped trying to improve that I was able to genuinely grow.
Now, I’m not saying people don’t need to change or improve (that would be ridiculous), but maybe it shouldn’t always be our main focus. If we’re constantly trying to be a better version of ourselves, then we’ll never be satisfied. We sink into a viciously endless cycle of dissatisfaction with who we are no matter how much we’ve grown or improved.
Self-improvement is a good thing, but not if it comes at the cost of self deprecation. We might not always like who we are, but there’s a difference between acceptance and approval. Being able to accept ourselves as we are and where we’re currently at in our lives will help us become better people in the long run, which will lead to our approval of ourselves. It will happen without us even realizing it.