“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” Frances Chan
One of the classes I teach focuses on the psychology of success. Today’s discussion included information about our bent towards negativity, and how that can stop us from being successful. We human beings all have a “negativity bias” that is not only socially based, but also brain based. There are actual neurological reasons that our brain tends to hold on to the negative rather than the positive. It’s almost like our brain is made of Teflon and the positive events and thoughts in our lives just slip right out while the negative sticks like those scrambled eggs I made this morning!
It actually takes positive experiences held in our awareness for more than 12 seconds to be transferred from our short-term to long-term memory…but because the amygdala (part of the brain) uses about 2/3rds of its neurons to detect negative experiences, those are stored into long-term memory almost immediately. I won’t bore you with the research and the technicalities of neuroscience…the good news is that God knew this (of course!) and planned accordingly. He tells us in Philippians 4:8 that “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
You can actually change your brain by thinking positively, focusing on the “true… lovely…. right… pure….” God states it pretty clearly in his Word, and scientific research agrees with God (it’s usually only a matter of time before science catches up with God’s truths). If you spend 22 minutes in worship (praising God in any form) your brain is actually realigned; and 47 minutes of meditating on the positive (Psalms 118:15) and the serotonin (neurotransmitter) increases, changing the synapses (neural connections) in your brain with the result being less stress and less depression. Make the time to meditate on God’s awesomeness everyday…you’ll change your brain (and how you feel) for the better!
Here’s another interesting tidbit that you might not have known. People are actually more likely to make choices based on their need to avoid negative experiences, rather than their desire to have positive experiences. This negativity that we lean towards causes us to be more likely to avoid things we may fail at…in other words, we are more likely to not try something new or challenging because we are afraid of failure and heaping more negative into our brains. We will choose to miss out on the positive things in life rather than endure the possible negative.
How much time do you spend with your focus on the negative? I know I waste a huge amount of brain power and emotional energy on the negative. Not only that, but I can waste immeasurable time on things in life that don’t really matter. I always have to come back to God’s Word, because everything else fluctuates, especially science. Only God’s Word stands true, through time and culture and circumstance. God tells us what really matters:
Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
Loving God and loving people. So simple, yet doesn’t it seem that this “negativity bias” causes us to do just the opposite? We try to protect ourselves from negative events despite this obvious command. Do you put up a wall between yourself and God? Are you afraid to fail Him, afraid that you won’t measure up? Or are you certain that God will fail you? Or maybe its other people? Do you keep yourself at a distance, never really sharing your heart because it’s very possible that people will fail you or that something bad will happen to them or in your relationship?
I want to challenge you to really think deeply about this because you may be missing out on something positively amazing. You may not fail, but you might just lose the chance of succeeding at something in life that really matters – to you, to someone else, to God.
Father, forgive us for focusing on the negative. You command us to think on the good, the positive, the truth; and yet because of this sinful world and our own sinful nature we disobey your command time and time again. Help us to keep our eyes on You and our minds on your Word. We want to love you and love the people you put in our lives, without the fear of failure, so we can succeed at what really matters to You.