Do you know the song lyric “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail”?
Simon and Garfunkel made it popular in their song El Condor Pasa.
How can we feel more like the hammer than the nail?
Or more like the bug and less like the windshield?
It’s all in our point of view.
Negative Thinking is Innate
According to Rick Hanson. PhD, the brain has a built-in negativity bias.
Why? He says it’s for survival.
When we think of the world in terms of carrots and sticks, Dr Hanson says that while carrots are great, if we don’t learn about the stick that could kill us, then we never get another carrot. Ever.
That’s a big incentive, and it’s also the reason that the people with brains that noticed the negative were the ones who survived long enough to pass on their genes.
So just a few negative experiences of futility or helplessness when we are young and our brains are forming, can result in some long-lasting deep-seated beliefs about what is possible or safe or appropriate.
But the result is that we end up noticing the hammer too often, and then feeling like the nail. We notice the sticks, but not the carrots.
We Need the Good
To overcome a negative experience, we need a 5:1 ratio of good to bad experiences.
That goes for our relationships too. So he recommends that we try to have 5 times more positive interactions with your friends and loved ones every day than negative ones. 5 times more carrots than sticks. 5 times fewer hammers or nails.
So he suggests that we praise our child’s accomplishments, compliment our significant other, and notice the good things about other people. And say so when it’s appropriate.
I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t raised to do that. Quite the opposite. So that is a new habit for me. And I like it. It is more enjoyable to live this way.
I am changing the critical mind I was trained to have into one of discernment. That works a lot better for me.
This goes for yourself too!
So practice noticing the good things about yourself. Not just the things you don’t like.
If you think you are overweight, notice how hard your body is working for you anyway, carrying the extra weight, doing as much as it possibly can of what you ask of it.
That opens the door to thinking of our choices differently. I choose foods and movement that support my body to do its job more easily. I guard against the temptation of the taste buds when I am able. And accept myself when I am not able.
And instead of getting down on ourselves when we make a mistake, we have the choice to realize that we did the best we could at the time.
A choice to be gentle with ourself.
And then we can ask ourself how we might do it differently next time. That’s a much more effective way to shift habits and have better outcomes.
Have a Gratitude Journal
Writing down 5 to 10 things that we are grateful for can change our lives. Being grateful helps us enjoy the good that we already have in our lives.
And that helps us notice even more of the good all around us. It tells our brain that it is important to notice the good. It actually creates new neural pathways, changing our brain.
If you don’t believe me, try it for a week.
And if you don’t know what to be grateful for, start with things we often take for granted, like:
- Hot and cold running water
- Indoor plumbing
- Eyesight and hearing
- A roof over your head
- Enough food to eat
How About You?
Do you dwell on the negative?
Do you have a way to remember the good in your life?
Would you like support in that?
Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me to explore how we might unlock some of those negative beliefs so you can live the life you always wanted.