Imagine if your phone fell and smashed right now. The phone falling is neither a good thing or a bad thing. What will determine how we see it is the story we tell ourselves. We might say ‘oh, what a disaster, it’s broken what will I do’ or we might say, ‘I was hoping to get a new phone anyway’. The event itself has no good or bad qualities. Yet most of us will tend towards the negative interpretation.
There’s a clear biological reason for this. Human beings are driven by two strong primal forces. Firstly, our desire to seek pleasure. In our caveperson past this meant food or a mate. And secondly, our desire to avoid pain. Again, going back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, pain meant being attacked by a tiger or fighting with an unfriendly tribe. Very often, it was ‘game over’ stuff.
Because of this we are more hard-wired to avoid pain than we are to seek pleasure. It’s what psychologists call a negativity bias; we worry more than we need to. But good news: with very few tigers or warring tribes out to get us, it turns out 93% of the things we worry about are irrelevant.
We probably all know this on a rational level. The challenge is making the less rational part of our mind realise it. Psychologically and physiologically, we still respond to worries in the same way we learned to as cave people. Our brain still does not see the difference between a physical threat and a worry. So as soon as something bothers us we go into ‘fight or flight’ mode – a high adrenaline state that can help us perform well in short bursts, but which makes the thinking part of our brain shut down, lowers the immune system, and is physically and mentally unsustainable long-term. Little wonder that 44% of people suffer long-term stress.
This stress and worry are avoidable, and higher performance and greater happiness achievable. Studies show that 80% of success and 90% of happiness is driven by mindset and attitude. Learn to manage our physical body, quiet our mind and tame the stories in our head and we can find more enthusiasm, inspiration and energy than we ever thought possible.
And it’s not just ourselves we’re helping when we create better energy. Our moods and actions wash onto those around us and change how they feel and behave as well. Learning to look inside ourselves drives not just the effectiveness of our own lives, but the impact we have on others.