Reclaiming Bad Behaviour

There’s a handful of words which have overtly negative connotations or definitions which I think need reframing.

Selfish

Boredom

Restless

Messy

Loner

Distracted

Emotional

There are countless others, and they all come with baggage – suggestion and expectation that they are not to be encouraged or experinced, that they should be avoided or strategies to be put in place to resolve them.

Selfish – putting yourself first. Is this a bad thing? If you’re always selfish, then perhaps – but an entire industry built around self-care, and the increasing recognition that we need to look after ourselves if we are to look after others suggests being selfish is important not bad.

Boredom – any parent who struggles to pull the iPad away from their child, wishing they’d go and invent a game to play in their room or the garden might suggest that being bored is a healthy state which encourages creativity. Without the feeling of being bored, there would be little frustration or momentum to find something to do. Boredom is a critical and positive state which suggests you have free time to use.

Restless – always looking for something else to fix or do, never happy with the status quo, full of energy. Some would also describe these as motivated and entrepreneurial attributes.

Messy – increasing amounts of research suggest that the most creative individuals are also the least tidy. Indeed – being able to mix things up and rearrange into new forms is one of the core ingredients of being creative.

Loner – what’s wrong with being someone who enjoys mindful solitude and quiet time?

Distracted – easily interested in lots of things

Emotional – allows their feelings to inform their actions rather than suppressing them.

I could go on, but you’d accuse me of ranting (passionately opining?).

If you’re a linguist – you might call me out on the subtlety of language here. That these words are negative words and the English language contains similar words which better describe the positive state – there’s a difference between restless and excitable after all – and I might call you a pedant (passionate about the right use of something) in return, but my point is less about language and more about trying to break down the traditional view of what is “professional” or “positive” or “successful”.

If you are like me, and get bored easily, are messy and are easily distracted, you fold your emotions into your work and enjoy spending time alone – now is the time to reclaim these bad behaviours and own them, to refine them and play them back into positives. Some of the smartest and most brilliant creatives, strategists and specialists I know and work with tick so many of these “negative” boxes, and I can’t think of a better group of people for colleagues and friends.

If you’re a more of an evidence orientated sort – here’s a handful of studies which take the idea of being a hot mess and turn it into a positive.

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