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  • You can fight back against cognitive bias! One of the easiest and most effective lines of attack is to compensate for your built-in tendency to focus on the negatives.

    Rick Hanson’s book Hardwiring Happiness details a practice he calls “taking in the good”. It’s the choice to allow yourself to see the positive dimensions of any circumstance. We are drawn to seeing the problems (remember, our ancestors’ ability to see problems enabled them to preserve themselves, and ultimately allowed us to make our way into the world too). “Taking in the good” means consciously and deliberately focusing your attention on what is positive, expansive, and fortunate in your environment.

    As you start to take in the good, some behavior changes might ensue. It might mean regularly complimenting your co-workers when they do a good job. It might mean giving five pieces of positive feedback for every one negative. (Also known as the Losada Ratio, this has been shown to correlate to high business performance.) But the first and most important step is to take in the good yourself: when you experience something positive, take the time to really soak it in. It’s the perfect antidote for negativity bias.

    Try It: Use Rick Hanson’s HEAL methodology for truly savoring something good when it happens:

    • Have a positive experience. Really notice when something good happens.
    • Enrich it. Stay with the positive experience for five to ten seconds. That sustained “yay” is going to feel like an eternity.
    • Absorb it. Experience that positive sensation sinking into you, like Tiger Balm or a good Scotch.
    • Link positive and negative material (Optional). Tie the positive sensation to something challenging that’s going on. Use the positivity to bring clarity, energy and possibility to that difficult situation.

    Photo: © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5