How Does Negativity Help You?

“I don’t really care what you have to say because you don’t have the same political beliefs as I do.”

“This idea just doesn’t match my life at all, so it’s worthless.”

Several years ago, my immediate circle of friends were full of people who would go out for drinks after work and spend an hour or two being as snarky as possible. We would spend our time making fun of others and often criticizing them for stupid reasons.

I would often see that negative sentiment sneaking into other aspects of my life. I would feel more negative about the things I used to feel very positive about. Rather than looking at the big good things in my life, I would focus instead on the little negatives.

Even worse, I would often use these little negatives as an excuse to be apathetic. I could ignore good advice because the person giving it didn’t appear to be affluent. I’d disregard a report with a lot of good ideas in it because of a spelling error.

Eventually, I reached a point where I realized that I was just drifting in life, finding easy reasons not to do anything. It was much easier to sit back and be snarky than to actually do anything, so I just fell into that trap.

It was at that point that many aspects of my life began to turn around. I basically decided to stop being negative about anything in my life with the exception of my own behavior. Sure, there might be a spelling error, but this report has a lot of good ideas in it, so what can I absorb? Yeah, the person across the hall might dress in worn-out clothes, but so what? He makes a lot of sense.

In the years following that shift, I took charge of my own choices. I started The Simple Dollar. I made a lot of changes to my personal, financial, and professional life. I paid off every bit of the debt I owed.

No more blame. No more negativity. No more excuses. Instead, I look at each situation and ask myself what real value I can get from this. If I can’t see anything, I move on without wasting a drop of energy on it – no negative thoughts, comments, or anything else.

“You have to be braindead to like that.”

“I didn’t bother to read the rest of the article because the first sentence included a misplaced apostrophe.”

If you default to a negative perspective on things, you’re bringing on several immediate costs that don’t have to be present.

First, negativity leads a person to never really challenge themselves. If something is challenging or different, it’s often hit with negativity and that negative response is used as a reason to not actually challenge yourself or grow. Negativity causes you to get stuck in a rut.

Second, negativity often undermines your own argument. It’s important to remember that people with a positive perspective on life have learned the powerful lesson to simply walk away from strong negativity. If you bring negativity to the table, many people are going to simply ignore what you’re saying and what you’re doing.

Also, negativity is often viewed as a sign of problems to come. Over and over again, my experience in the workplace has shown me that the person with the most negative attitude in the workplace is the person that is keeping projects from moving forward and is reducing the morale of everyone in the workplace. This isn’t a factor that’s unknown to supervisors and people who hire. They know that

“The author of this article once made a mistake in some other aspect of his life. Don’t read it.”

“If you listen to Buffett’s advice, you must be in favor of the destruction of the American dollar.”

Beyond that, negativity breeds negativity. Once you’ve reached a point where you find it okay to stew in negativity about one thing, it’s very easy to just add another thing to the pile. Once you’ve reached a point where you’re finding it healthy to openly share your negative feelings, it becomes easy to make many of your shared thoughts negative.

The more you do this, the more you drive away positive people in your life. I certainly don’t enjoy spending time involved with people who constantly look for the worst in others. I try as best I can to avoid them, not interact with them, and not give them my business.

On the flip side, you also tend to attract other folks who stew in negativity. In this situation, you’re embedding yourself in a constant stream of often-unfounded criticism and a focus on elements that are outside of a person’s core competencies (like criticizing a person’s ideas because of who the person is or discrediting a written argument because of a mis-spelled word or ignoring a speaker because of the color of trousers they chose). In other words, you’re focusing on things that don’t matter and applying negative perspectives to those that do.

“That professional woman is just dressed horribly. I won’t take my business there.”

“Who are you to even suggest that I might not be doing the best possible thing? What do you know, idiot?”

Every ounce of energy or thought you waste on being needlessly negative towards someone or something is an ounce of energy or thought not spent making your life better. The time and energy you spend whispering a caustic comment to someone else, writing a negative comment on a website, getting in a rage about an inconsequential detail, or thinking about how much you dislike someone or something is time and energy not spent putting your life in a better place.

If you think something isn’t useful for you, walk away from it and minimize the time and energy you spend on it. You’ll find yourself with a lot more time and energy available during your day to do positive things and absorb ideas that can help you in a positive way.

The next time you don’t like some pop culture phenomenon or have a strong sense of dislike for someone or find a minor error in someone’s work (when you’re not hired to proof it) or find yourself getting angry about something you can’t directly impact, take a deep breath and walk away. Look instead for the things that can actually help you or the ways in which you can actually help that situation.

The vast majority of the time, you’ll find yourself getting a lot more out of life – financially, professionally, emotionally, personally, and otherwise.

Good luck.

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