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A Little Bit of Negativity Hurt No One...

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The other day someone told me that I was being a "Negatron." I guessed what it meant, but sought clarification; I was told that I needed to learn to be more positive, that I needed an attitude adjustment. My first reaction was, well normal, defensive "No way! I'm not negative!" But then I wondered if I really was very negative all the time and just chose to blame my circumstances for it... Maybe it really was time for a change!

I had always thought of myself as being a realist; I tell it like it is, no matter what the situation or the circumstance. Maybe a realist is just a negative person claiming to be otherwise. Or maybe we really are just surrounded by doom and gloom all the time, and hence that's what reality is! Naaah... I really do have faith in the human spirit and that we are capable of some tremendous things, and of doing some good in life! So it can't be all doom and gloom (there you go, a bit of a positive attitude from me for a change).

Then, coincidentally, a day or so after I was termed a "Negatron," I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal that talked about "The Power of Negative Thinking." (For those interested, you can access the article here.) It talked about how being negative is not the worst thing in the world; in fact, being negative helps people prepare for what actually could be the worst in the world. We lead fairly sheltered and protected lives as humans today. That is, until we are faced with the toughest scenarios or scenarios that take the cheer out of our lives. Maybe these are just scenarios that we never thought would happen and hence never prepared for -- mentally, that is. As a banker, we often model a "downside case," i.e., what would happen if everything went pear-shaped? Are we prepared for such an eventuality? Would the company be able to meet its obligations in this downside scenario? And by being negative or preparing for the "real" world out there, in a way we are already ensuring ourselves of happiness; we are modeling a "downside case" for ourselves.

And then a third occurrence definitely convinced me that some bit of negativity or downside in our lives is a good thing. It helps us prepare to deal with the worst, but more importantly, it makes the rest look really good! There is a saying or a story in Persian that conveys such a message. It was told to me by a really close friend as a source of encouragement. According to the story, there is a farmer who is suffering from insomnia. He goes to see a doctor to seek some help and advice to cure him of the malaise. The doctor tells him to go home and bring his chicken into the room that night and then try to sleep. A day later he returns, saying it was impossible to sleep with all the noise the chicken made that night. So the doctor advises him to bring in his sheep the following night. Same story -- still unable to sleep, he returns to the doctor. This time, he is advised to bring in his cattle into the house and try again. Frustrated and annoyed, he returns to the doctor a fourth time, who tells him to bring his camels into the house and that this time it would surely work. No luck yet, he gives it one final try, complaining of the tremendous noise from all the animals that now made it even harder to sleep than before. This time the doctor tells him to go home, put all his animals back outside on the farm, and then try to sleep. Guess what? Success: That night he was able to sleep as soundly as he ever had. Why? Because he had seen and dealt with the worst; anything that came after was like a dream!

Of course, I am not suggesting this means that we turn negative sour-pusses at all times; life is hard as it is and we could do with happiness and cheer around us. Just as a lotus grows in muck and roses are surrounded by thorns, so too true happiness may lie around an abundance of negativity. But then who would think that the key to happiness maybe a "Negatron"!

For more by Tarun Sakhrani, click here.

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