Big Negatives, small positives

The small picture. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear


Human history is rich with stories of paradise: Heaven, Nirvana, Utopia, The Sweet Hereafter.

Each of us has imagined a personal world of perfect bliss. One day we’ll go there.

In fact, that’s what it’s called. One Day.

One Day when we’ve lost 20 pounds. One Day when we make more money. One Day when we pay off our debts. One Day when we’ve solved our big problems.

One Day, we’ll start living for real.

One Day lies beyond the realm of the Big Negatives. We humans tend to focus on negatives. It’s biological. We’d never have survived as a species if we weren’t forever attuned to risk, danger, and enemies.

The Big Negative is a mental check-list. It’s not only our problems, it’s the things we want but don’t have.

Drawing up a list of negatives and turning them into positives is not a bad thing. In fact, it can bring great satisfaction. We all need to face the problems in our lives that are within our power, and responsibility, to change.

But obsessing over the Big Negatives is a huge energy drain. Maybe in a few years, you’ll have crossed a couple Big Negatives off the list. Maybe not. We need a strategy that helps us fulfill long-term goals while also living our lives today.

Today is the realm of small positives. They’re all around us, right now. That’s why we take them for granted. It’s hard to see the small positive right in front of you when you’re dreaming about the day, twenty years from now, when you won’t have to deal with your idiot boss.

The cruel irony is that when you’re old, and your idiot boss is a distant memory, so too the small positives. That’s when we’ll look back to the good old days, regretting the things we took for granted.

Human nature. It takes some discipline to be otherwise. The good news is that we are also habit-forming creatures. Good habits, bad habits. We can do either.

Every week, make a list of a few small positives. Something you’re grateful for, something good you can easily do for a friend or colleague, something you always wanted to try or learn or see but have put off because you’re busy with the Big Negatives.

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