As humans, we often tend to look at the dark side of things. For many of us, the proverbial glass is always half empty.
This is unfortunate because research has shown that what we place our attention on tends to grow stronger in our minds and in our lives—for good or bad. My daughter-in-law, Madeleine Homan Blanchard, has a master’s of science degree in neuroleadership from Middlesex University. As I’ve learned from Madeleine, studies confirm that your thoughts and experiences actually change the cells and structure of your brain—something scientists call neuroplasticity. If you focus on positive thoughts, your brain will strengthen the electrical pathways related to an optimistic outlook. If you focus on negative thoughts, your brain will become hardwired to pessimism.
There’s nothing wrong with identifying negative situations and working to make them better. The trick is to keep your eye on the positive. No one expressed this better than retired basketball legend Michael Jordan, who said:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Do bad things happen? Of course. But so do good things. This week Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times reported that 2017 “was probably the very best year in the history of humanity.” He pointed to statistics that showed a smaller proportion of the world’s population was hungry, impoverished, or illiterate than at any time before. “In another 15 years, illiteracy and extreme poverty will be mostly gone,” Kristof reported. “After thousands of generations, they are pretty much disappearing on our watch.”
Take that, gloom-and-doomers!
As a witty T-shirt points out, technically, that proverbial glass of water is always 100% full—half is full of water, half is full of air! So look at the bright side—your brain will thank you for it.