Productivity: Embrace Negativity

Seema R.
Seema R.
Feb 19, 2018 · 3 min read

We are living in a time when optimism and positivity are a growth industry. Books about happiness are a growth business. Negativity is not in vogue.

But, it is human. Your real self is human, good and bad emotions included. There is no doubt important evolutionary reasons for negative emotions. Judgmental gatherers were probably the best folks to have when coming across other tribes. I would guess, at least, that the circumspect gatherers were the least likely to get poisoned by bad berries.

The thing about people is that we have lots of emotions. If you imagine yourself as a container, all the emotions are just there. They might bubble to the surface, like a human lava lamp. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of your feelings. Even the most horrendous emotions, like hatred, are only harmful if you act on them.

Knowing when and how to act on emotions is one of the keys to being a productive adult. Certainly, most people learn a range of coping skills by the time that they get to work. But, the idea that you should be continuously positive turn your system out of whack.

What does this have to do with productivity? Well, let’s go back to some fundamentals of negativity. There is a range of feelings that go into negativity, from meh to murderous. The most productive people don’t waste their time all the way down at the extremely negative end. But, most of the other negative emotions are just fine. Think of all the time you are wasting avoiding those negative feelings or pretending you feel “okay.”

But, let’s go back to our ancient ancestors. Negativity had its benefits then and now. While the rate of accidental poisoning by berries has certainly gone down, there are still real benefits from negativity. Think about when you meet someone who gives you a bad vibe. Ages later, you look back on that first meeting, after that person has screwed you over one too many times, and think, “duh.” Now, not all bad first impressions are true, of course. But, at the same time, discounting your bad feelings for someone is like missing the street sign. You can still keep going, but wouldn’t it be easier to know what the street is called.

Spend some time noticing when you have negative feelings and then what happens next in the situation. In other words, gauge the relationship between your feelings and world. You are creating a baseline. Once you have this baseline in place, you will have a quick, reliable shorthand. You will eventually be able to say that when you feel the hairs stand up on the back of your head stand up, you know that you will likely feel X will happen.

You will be more productive if, one, you don’t waste time on pretending that negative feels don’t exist and, two, you notice them. Now, here is the caveat. It’s a big one. Negative feelings can seem imperative, like super jolt towards action. This post is not about acting on those negative feelings. Instead, the goal is to accept and investigate those feelings. In doing so, you will not feel bad about not always being positive. When you don’t deny negativity, you begin to understand what those negative feelings mean to you.

Seema R.

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Tech, Games, Inclusion, Museums, Nonprofits, Change, Twitter @artlust Website:

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