Flee from Negative People!

Original Spanish version published in Mujeres Batalla magazine (Peru) on September 13, 2013

“NEGATIVE PEOPLE MAKE their own BAD LUCK, because they get what they expect”

Shawn Achor, a fantastic speaker and Harvard University professor, has dedicated his life to studying how humans go about being happier (or not). His presentations are among the best I have ever heard.

He caught my attention when I heard him speaking of mirror neurons, also called empathy neurons. If somebody smiles at us, we smile back. When, for example, people on the bus are impatient, we become impatient too.

In short, we all wind up copying others, doing what they do without realizing it. This leads us to reflect on the company we keep and that how those people see the world ends up affecting not only our mood, but also our mental construct of reality and of ourselves, both key areas for happiness. Shawn very emphatically suggests that we stay away from negative people.

Negative people –who typically end up anxious, distressed, or scared– are closed off to possibilities and alternatives.

Negative people can only focus on one task, because their brain is affected by their negative internal construct of the outside world around them.

Their fates are sealed. Negative people make their own bad luck, because they get what they expect. Programmed to receive what they predict, they try to share their anticipated failure with others, because misery seeks company. That way, if failure is shared by many, it hurts less and it is not their own attitudes but circumstances that are to blame.

Positive people, on the other hand, see opportunities. Their brains process more and they see more of reality. Their beliefs influence their behavior (their positive thoughts condition them better to perform) and they act with energy. Achor expresses this clearly: When you are happy and positive, you draw success towards you, not the other way around!

To create these behaviors, he proposes we should train our brains. To achieve this, he poses some simple but very interesting ideas:

  1. Remember that it takes us 21 days to create a habit (good and bad).
  2. List 50 things for which we are grateful for and frequently look at that list. Being grateful gives us energy.
  3. Write down the good things that happened to you during the day, every day, so that our brain can relive them. Reliving good moments raises our spirits (and good vibes) and makes us feel good.
  4. Do one good deed a day. For example, celebrate or acknowledge someone at work or in the family. That makes the other person happy and this spreads back to us (remember the mirror neurons?).

All that talk about happiness attracting success used to sound very alien and almost esoteric to me. Like many others, I expected that what would bring me happiness would be whatever success I achieved. I now understand better that feeling good, surrounded by positive people with good vibes, definitely affects my level of happiness, and therefore, my possibilities of success. One more reason to keep away from negative people!

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