Thinking negatively to create positivity

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Anthony Pica
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Thinking negatively to create positivity

Thinking negatively to create positivity

At work, I use a two-step approach when devising a new marketing strategy: first I think positively as I'm brainstorming what the company can do, then I switch to thinking negatively about what could go wrong.

The negative part of my approach helps me predict outcomes I want to avoid. After identifying a negative outcome, I consider actions my team can take to mitigate risks.

Negative visualization is a Stoic practice of thinking about bad things that could potentially happen, so that you can you prevent them happening. And if they do happen, you won't be caught by surprise and the negative effect on your mind is minimized. The Stoic philosophers called this the art of premeditatio malorum or "premeditation of evils".

In project management, it's common to have a post mortem meeting after a project to evaluate whether it was truly successful, and if it wasn't, to determine the cause of failure. It helps people learn, adapt, and innovate.

Project post mortems are important, but I would encourage people to try a premortem meeting, which is a discussion about why a project has failed, before the project even starts. Learn, adapt, and innovate without failure.

Negative visualization can be applied in other areas of life, too...

When my wife and I bought our current home years ago, we put in a bid that was lower than the asking price. The same day, our realtor told us two other buyers put in similar offers and advised us to increase our bid by only a small amount. I thought that was a bad strategy and instead put in a bid that was just above asking price. The sellers immediately accepted our offer. I used negative visualization to identify a potentially bad scenario: three buyers increasing their offers by small increments, creating a bidding war that could take longer, cause stress, and end up being more expensive. We avoided all that and won the house we love. No regrets.

I believe negative visualization is a powerful psychological tool. You can use it to circumvent negative outcomes, appreciate what you have today (it can go away tomorrow), and mentally prepare yourself for when life throws you a curveball.

Thinking negatively can be a way to create more positivity.

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