With the natural disasters happening around the world, I am reminded this week of how we as a culture, and as individuals most of the time fail to notice the good and compassionate side of humanity. Most times, it takes a tragedy like what is happening for us to start recognizing the compassionate actions of others, this is especially true in the media. Saying this, I am not trying to minimize these wonderful acts of compassion, rather I am pointing out that it is really only in times of tragedy that we give these acts a lot of attention. I believe that, on a daily basis, all around the world there are similar acts of compassion happening yet we fail to recognize it. Instead, we focus on all the struggles and problems, rather than spending a minute to recognize all the good that is out there.
We do this on a global scale as well as on an individual basis. Why is it that we let the positive slip by us, instead we focus on the negative acts? On a global scale, you can see this daily by watching the news. They tend to focus on the negative acts of humanity and skim over, or altogether skip, the compassionate acts. This is why I choose not to watch the news! On the rare occasions when I do catch it, the stories focus on the doom and gloom and the negative aspects of humanity. I have even noticed when there is nothing new and negative happening, the stories then try to remind us something negative from history. This is crazy! It feeds our fears and negative bias, and we soak it up. No wonder there are so many of us that struggle with being negative! I do understand the need to be aware of what is happening in the news, but what I am missing is a balance. Because as much negative happenings as there are, in my belief, there are also equal or even more acts of compassion and positive humanity happening too!
That is on a global level, but looking at an individual level it is the same case. When most of us run through our day, we focus on all the negative things that have happened… the person who has cut you off in traffic, the coworker who was rude, the partner who was insensitive and so on. We forget about the person who gave us their parking spot, the coworker who brought your favorite cookies, the spouse that made dinner so you could attend a yoga class. We take these things for granted and instead of celebrating the things that enriched our day, we focus on the things that went wrong.
If you need further proof, look at your casual conversations with others, for example, those who work in customer service. The usual conversations revolve around how bad the weather is and who is suffering because of the latest horrible act of humanity, or the suffering of others. I notice this all the time with others and have even caught myself doing it. However, I have now made a conscious effort to change these automatic responses.
With all this negative focus, no wonder so many people are in bad moods! Doom and gloom all around and we focus on it.
As I have mentioned numerous times, we are hardwired to notice the negative for safety reasons, but that does not mean that is all we can notice!
So, what do we do about this?
What would happen if we all made an effort to minimize the negative and recognize the positive? There would be a radical shift in our perspectives! If we all started trying to get a more balanced view of humanity I think we would see others not as someone who could potentially cause us harm, but rather as another human being who is capable of compassion.
Our view of humanity would shift from one of fear and negativity to one of inclusiveness and compassion. Think about it, if 75% of things you heard about a new coworker or neighbor was negative, how would you feel about this person? Well, of course you would probably be fearful of them to some degree. You would be on guard when you met them and chances are you would maybe even avoid them. This is exactly what happens in our world because we hear all these negative things. We expect that others can’t be trusted and we need to be on guard around them. What an epic change we could create in our world if we could all expect the best from others instead of fearing the worst!
If you want to make this shift, challenge yourself to start noticing the wonderful acts of humanity around you. Being aware and recognizing them will teach your brain to search these experiences out more often!
On a personal level, you can remember to count your blessings, practice gratitude for acts of compassion, acknowledge the good in others and yourself. Acknowledge what you notice and talk about it often. If you find yourself going down that old familiar route of a negative bias, then consciously make the effort to recognize something good. I am not saying completely ignore the negative, but doesn’t it make sense to focus on what you want? If you want a more positive life then focus on that. There will be negatives for sure! You will get cut off in traffic, someone will be disrespectful, there will be acts of aggression and examples of the harsh side of humanity. That is a part of life, but wouldn’t it be nicer to be able to let those events pass and instead focus on the acts of compassion you have experienced instead?