How do you get over on a bad choice you did years ago? Learn about the Negativity bias and self-control.
Probably the answer is easy:
You can’t turn back the time, all you can do is learn from your mistake, and move on with your life. Clearly nothing can reverse the outcome. So if it is still bothering you it’s mostly, because you are still fighting the negative outcome, and can not accept it.
We can learn a bit more regarding the question.
Most people will tell you the past is already gone and you need to get over with, you can either suffer more as you remind yourself of it or try to learn from it and redeem yourself moving forward in life. There is no practical point of the former, so try to stick to the latter.
What I think about the question is the following:
You don’t know whether that was a bad choice or not (except if it changed your life irreversibly forever e.g.: crushed with a car and killed people), because you did not see the other way.
So ask those questions from yourself, when you are clearly suffering from a “bad choice’ you have made in the past:
- What if the other way would have been worse?
- How do I know it was a bad choice?
- How do I know the other way could be only better?
We tend to imagine the other way could have been only positive, better and it would have given us the amazing future, which is basically not true.
In reality we don’t know how bad or good our decisions were in the past. The problem that we think those were bad, because we see ‘negative’ consequences of them, but we don’t see the other way’s consequences.
We don’t think those past decisions saved us from something worse comparing to our situation now. We are daydreaming and fantasizing the other way would have been better for us, but these are only assumptions, which are not always bad, because they can help to solve problems, but not ALWAYS helpful.
I’m happy you asked this question, because I was thinking on one of my past decision last week and whether it was good or not. In reality we will never know, because 50% the chance that could have been better or 33.3% that better, worse or the same.
We just tend to think it might have been better, which is not always true… 🤷♀️
Problems in life not that serious unless you think
Creating your own ‘hell’
Maybe it’s not the worst what could have happened, but you labelled it, by doing this you are giving it power and now you suffer.
Instead of creating your own hell to suffer there try to accept your decisions, learn self-control and live with them. Be grateful that you are still here and alive.
Some people made that bad choices that they are not alive anymore e.g.: drove a car and had a car crash at age 17–18 and died and (almost) killed others too. It was a bad choice to get into a car after drinking all night. These are the bad choices.
Try to be neutral with your choice, or not thinking on it all the time. Live with it as you can’t do anything else. In addition to this the worst choice in the present is punishing yourself for “bad choices in the past”. You have one life, so try to live it instead create suffering and manipulate other people to suffer with you.
Negativity bias helped the evolution
Ohh is it because negative emotions attract people better? As it helped us somehow during the evolution and in the survival…?
What is negative/negativity bias?
I assume we all heared about negative/negativity bias:
- “The negative bias is our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of a rebuke more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise.”
This psychological phenomenon explains why bad first impressions can be so difficult to overcome and why past (e.g.: childhood etc.) traumas can have long lingering effects. In almost any interaction, we are more likely to notice negative things and later remember them more vividly according to verywellmind.
- “Negativity bias is a cognitive bias that explains why negative events or feelings typically have a more significant impact on our psychological state than positive events or feelings, even when they are of equal proportion.” according to thedecisionlab.
As humans, we tend to:
- Remember traumatic experiences better than positive ones.
- Recall insults better than praise.
- React more strongly to negative stimuli.
- Think about negative things more frequently than positive ones.
- Respond more strongly to negative events than to equally positive ones.
This bias toward the negative leads you to pay much more attention to the bad things that happen. This making them seem much more important than they really are. The evolutionary perspective suggests that tendency to dwell on the negative more than the positive. It is a way how the brain tries to keep us safe.
Evidence that negative stimuli have greater impact
Neuroscientific evidence has shown that there is greater neural processing in the brain in response to negative stimuli. According to the Human Brain Mapping journal
“Negative content enhances stimulus‐specific cerebral activity during free viewing of pictures, faces, and words. Studies involve measuring event-related brain potentials (ERPs) show the brain’s response to specific sensory, cognitive, or motor stimuli, have shown that negative stimuli create a larger brain response than positive ones.”
The negativity bias can have harmful effects on your mental health, causing you to:
- Dwell on dark thoughts.
- Hurt your relationships with loved ones.
- Make it difficult to maintain an optimistic outlook on life.
Self-control is a crucial trait for effective leadership in business. It plays a pivotal role in mitigating the impact of negativity bias, allowing individuals to navigate challenges with resilience and make more balanced decisions.
Why self-control is important in business leadership?
Leaders must exercise self-control in various aspects, for instance
- managing emotions,
- making rational decisions, and
- demonstrating resilience in the face of challenges,
The ability to regulate one’s own impulses and emotions contributes to better
- conflict resolution,
- strategic planning, and
- long-term goal achievement.
Why self-control is important in business management?
In business management, self-control is particularly important when dealing with high-pressure situations, as impulsive decisions can have lasting consequences. Leaders who prioritize self-control create a more stable and predictable work environment, which positively influences team members and overall organizational performance.
Why self-control is important generally?
- Self-awareness: Individuals with strong self-control are more likely to be aware of their emotions and reactions. This awareness enables them to identify when negativity bias might be influencing their perceptions.
- Emotional intelligence: By developing emotional intelligence, individuals can understand and manage their emotions effectively. This skill is essential for countering the disproportionate emphasis on negative stimuli that negativity bias can create.
- Impulse control: Self-control empowers individuals to resist impulsive reactions to negative events or information. This is crucial in business management, where rash decisions driven by negativity bias can lead to suboptimal outcomes.
- Critical thinking: Individuals with strong self-control are more likely to engage in critical thinking. This allows them to objectively evaluate situations, considering both positive and negative aspects, and making decisions based on a more comprehensive understanding.
Resilience in Adversity
- Stress management: Self-control helps in managing stress and pressure effectively. Resilient individuals are better equipped to bounce back from setbacks, reducing the long-term impact of negative experiences.
- Optimism: Cultivating a positive mindset through self-control enables individuals to maintain optimism even in challenging circumstances. This optimism counteracts the tendency of negativity bias to overly focus on adverse events.
Building Positive Habits
- Goal-setting: Self-control is crucial for setting and adhering to long-term goals. By maintaining focus on positive objectives, individuals can create a proactive mindset that counters the passive pull of negativity bias.
- Establishing routines: Developing disciplined routines requires self-control. Consistent positive behaviors and routines can help break the cycle of negativity bias, promoting a more optimistic outlook over time.
Cultivating a Positive Work Environment
- Leadership example: Leaders with self-control set the tone for the entire team. Their ability to manage their own reactions positively influences the workplace culture, encouraging a more optimistic and resilient atmosphere.
- Conflict resolution: Self-control is essential in resolving conflicts constructively. Instead of succumbing to negativity bias during disagreements, individuals can approach conflicts with a calm and rational mindset.
Self-control and communication
Self-control is a cornerstone of effective communication in business leadership. Leaders with strong self-control can navigate communication challenges with composure and clarity.
By maintaining emotional regulation, leaders can convey messages decisively and avoid reactive responses to criticism or negative feedback. This composure facilitates active listening, allowing leaders to patiently engage with others’ perspectives without interrupting or becoming defensive.
In essence, self-control enables leaders to foster a
- professional and
- calm communication style,
contributing to a positive and collaborative work environment.
Experiences and self-control
These are nterconnected factors and contribute significantly to fostering a calm communication style.
Through a diverse range of experiences, individuals develop a deeper understanding of different
- perspectives, and
This broader perspective gained from experiences enables individuals to approach communication with a sense of adaptability and open-mindedness.
Additionally, when individuals successfully navigated various scenarios, they often gain a heightened level of self-confidence, reducing anxiety and promoting a composed communication style.
Furthermore, self-control plays a crucial role by allowing individuals to regulate their emotions, avoid impulsive reactions, and respond thoughtfully to communication challenges.
By combining the lessons learned from experiences with the discipline of self-control, individuals cultivate a calm communication style that promotes
- effective dialogue,
- understanding, and
- collaboration in both personal and professional settings.
How to learn self-control?
Avoid creating your own hell
You can create your heaven without creating your own hell.
This with being aware about the Negative Bias, and thinking about your own thinking process, help yout to learn
- self-control, and
- how to control your own thoughts.
How to overcome on the Negative/Negativity Bias?
Here you can find some advices:
- Avoid & Stop Negative Self-Talk: start critical thinking and thinking how you think. Consider what you have learned from a situation or experience and how you might apply that in the future.
- Reframing: refocusing and finding positive perspective in a previously labelled ‘negative’ situation
- Creating new patterns: overthinking not help, do good activities, and make yourself busy with them. Redirect your attention for something pleasant e.g.: go for a walk, trip, listen upbeat music or read a good book.
Focusing on positive experiences/moments
Everyone falls, made bad decision, make failures, but people make better decisions later and move on. The best you can do is learn from your decisions, not labelling them. Those are your practical and empirical experiences, which are and will be very important later in life.
Make more effort to remember positive moments – you need to preactice your self-control muscle here too e.g.: focusing on it, pictures/photos, replay moments several times in your memory. Try to focus & remember the feelings several times.
Train Your Mind
As I wrote in the previous article it is important all of us to
- create healthy boundaries, and
- taking responsibilities for our own future actions and past failures are important.
Remember that your strongest muscle and worst enemy is your mind if you don’t learn how to control it. You can train it everyday in the gym, by walking, running, doing sport, meditating, etc.
Self-control is important. Learn and continuously practice it.
If you are interested to read more about self-control, then here is a list of articles which I recommend to read and will help to understand why is it a topic it is good to know about:
- Developing critical thinking protect and help you to save money (examples),
- Self-development is the key instead of impressing people,
- What purpose do boundaries serve and how communication affects relationship building?