Brain’s negative bias (I): two important things to remember

Overriding the brain’s in-built negative bias

There are things you can do to override the brain’s negative bias – Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

The brain’s negative bias pops up pretty much everywhere.

One of the places where this bias is unhelpful is when you self-evaluate something you are doing (e.g., a new goal, a new habit you are introducing).

I am a huge fan of self-assessments. I do it all the time. I evaluate everything. It tells me if I am moving in the right direction and if not, how to self-correct.

There are two important things to remember when you self-evaluate that will limit the effect of the brain’s negative bias.

Compensating for the brain’s negative bias

The brain sees the negatives first, sees what is missing, what you have done wrong.

If you work with me, you know that we evaluate our food plans every day.

Evaluating what has happened with your plan, whether you have followed it and finding it why yes or why not, is the best way to learn if you are on your way to achieve your food goal.

There are two important principles to remember when you evaluate.

1.    Start with the positives

The brain sees the negative first, sees what is missing first, what you have done wrong.

We need to compensate for that.

Start with the positives first.

Ask yourself, what worked today? What was I thinking that made it work?

Whatever is that you are evaluating, start with what worked first.

Your brain will want to go to the negative. What was missing, what you did not do well

Do not let it.

Force your brain to concentrate on what has worked first.

This will help you bypass the brain’s negative bias.

It is exceedingly difficult to come up with what has worked once your mind has listed all that went wrong. It is hard to switch to positive mode after your brain is negative gear.

2.    Drop judgement, use curiosity instead

There will be things that have not worked.

There must be. If you are doing something new worthwhile doing, there will be thigns that have not worked: the snack that was not on your food plan, the bigger portion, the additional drink.

Your brain will want to tell you how bad you are at changing habits, that this will never be possible for you. Again, that negative bias.

This time, instead of judging what has not worked, get curious instead: ‘I wonder why that happened?’ ‘What was I thinking just before I …. [insert whatever you did that your brain is considering a failure]?’

Failures are learning opportunities if we give ourselves the opportunity to learn.

That is difficult unless we supervise the brain’s negative bias, the one that tells us we will never get it right.

Recap to overriding the brain’s negative bias

  • Avoid the brain’s negative bias distorting your self-evaluations.
  • Start with the positives: “what has worked?”
  • Use curiosity, instead of judgement, to learn from what has not worked.

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