Ratio of Positivity

August 08, 2015

Happy Baby

So what is the ratio of positivity? How do you experience life? Are you living in bliss? Do you know what it takes for someone to feel happy and content with their life? I mean concretely, quantified. Apparently there is a ratio of positivity at play. Scientists undertook an experiment when they asked some people to record all the positive and negative moments they experienced in a day for a period of four weeks. And this is what they found. For those who experienced one positive emotion for every negative emotion they were not very happy. In fact even two positive experiences didn’t quite tip the balance in the favor of happiness. For one to live and feel truly happy the ratio of positive to negative emotions needs to be 3 is to 1. That’s the power of negativity. When you experience one negative emotion it takes three more to make you feel better. That is deplorable isn’t it? On the other extreme end are too many positive experiences. It seems a little bit negativity is crucial to make one appreciate the positive. For example, a ratio of 11 positives to 1 negative doesn’t make you feel any more happier. The Goldilocks effect of ‘just right’ is 3 is to 1. Therefore a little bit of negativity it seems is just right for us mortal beings to appreciate the finer things in life!

So what does this mean for you? I believe we can all be a little more proactive about the kind of experiences we pursue and eliminate the negatives as far as possible. You experienced two negative moments in a day? Then you can pretty much write that day off! Good luck trying to create six positive experiences to counter that. Got a boss who’s a house of negativity? You know what to do! This of course has wide implications especially for people who you are responsible for. From your spouse and children to the people whom you manage directly. Your behavior can ensure and influence their happiness in a big way.

The last most crucial aspect is recovery from a negative experience. Life is no bed of roses. You are going to come across a thorn or two. For some it can be perpetual doom and gloom for no fault of theirs. It’s what you can do with your own actions to turn things around for yourself and others. How? The difference between long-term success and perpetual failure all comes down to how you reflect on failure. This is the real game changer. This of course doesn’t just apply to colossal failures related to a lifelong pursuit. It applies to any kind of negative experience. You could look at it as a permanent debilitating personal failure and attribute all aspects of the fail to a shortcoming or inability to get it right. Or you can look at it positively, extrinsically and attribute the outcome to some other aspect by reflecting on it from an outside perspective. Perhaps your idea was not right for the investors you are trying to woo. Perhaps the timings was not right for her to respond to your advances. Whatever the reason. The more optimistic, temporary your self reflection of your failure is the more likely you are able to bounce back and keep going. Based on a research to test this concept, it was learnt that optimists in the top 50% sold 37% more insurance than the the pessimists in the bottom half. Similarly the optimists in the top 10% sold 88% more insurance than the bottom 10%. It all comes down to attitude as they say. And rightly so! The key is to look at failure as temporary, impersonal and as a one-off incident! Comprendo?

The happy baby featured here has been provided by Tom Woodward under the Creative Commons License 2.0

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