Before you read this article, open up your Facebook/Twitter feed or a news site and have a quick scroll through.
Did you notice how the content predominantly takes a pessimistic tone? How even when a story is about something positive, the writer chooses to give it a negative spin?
Making that choice isn’t a result of social or news media. The reason pessimistic news content sees an engagement rate 63% higher than optimistic content isn’t because the media wants to program you to be scared, uncertain, sad, or to feel like something is missing from your life.
It’s because you’re already programmed to be that way.
As humanity has progressed throughout the ages, the way we think about the world on a conscious level has changed greatly.
Under the surface, however, we are still the same hunter-gatherers, traversing the plains of Africa in an unabating quest for survival. On a neurological level, we prioritise negative information because we recognise both the physical threat and the emotional reaction as things we want to distance ourselves from.
At the same time, we can’t look away. It doesn’t matter that instead of a lion on the savannah, this threat now takes the form of a celebrity drama or a weight loss ad; emotionally, the result is the same.
We have a twisted love affair with pessimism. We allow ourselves to be drawn in. And we lose sight of what matters. Not just as individuals, but also as a society.
Divorcing ourselves from this mindset is difficult, but it is not impossible. There is a particular group of people that, no matter the pessimism directed their way, manage to rise above and move forward with hope and excitement.
And we have a lot to learn from them.
The Optimistic Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs are optimistic by default. After all, it’s fairly difficult to embrace challenge and pursue innovation if you don’t have a positive attitude about the struggles experienced along the way.
In fact, entrepreneurs tend to be so positive that they’ve turned the pessimism bias on its head, and replaced it with an optimism bias.
Any such bias has its pitfalls, but the move towards an optimistic bias – a move against human nature – is the very thing that will lead humanity into the future.
We have moved beyond our focus on survival. Technology and society both have taken us to a state in which we can take it for granted.
Our priority now is to thrive. To look on the future as bright and filled with opportunity. Because it is. But only if we make it so.
That might sound a little whimsical, but the simple truth is that in our security, we risk stagnation. We risk contentment.
Neither are conducive to progress. Not on a personal level. Not on a social level.
It’s time we took a break from the pessimism. To start focusing on what we have. What we could have, if we dedicate ourselves to the vision, and to the work.
The only other option is to sit on our hands, and let it all burn down around us.
What choice will you make?