Beyond Cynical: Transcend Your Mammalian Negativity

Cynicism is popular because it triggers the brain chemicals that make us happy.  It triggers dopamine by making the world feel predictable. It triggers serotonin by raising you above “the jerks.”  It triggers oxytocin by telling you who to trust. Cynicism lures your inner mammal, but you can transcend it. Here’s how:

Chapter 1: Why Cynicism Feels Good

Apes pull their own hair out. Huge patches of hairless skin got my attention when I visited the bonobos at the Valley of Monkeys (Le Vallé des Singes) in France. I asked a zookeeper what was wrong.

“They do it to themselves, ” the young man told me. “They arrived here with the habit.”

“From where?” I asked, expecting a traumatic tale of capture and confinement.

The keeper said the habit went so far back that its origins are unknown. “The babies start doing it when they see their mothers doing it. Then it becomes a habit. ”

I was horrified at the thought of innocent children embarking on a life of pain.

“They’ll stop eventually,” the keeper said, and walked away.

The sight of all that raw skin unnerved me. Suffering gets our attention. We want it to stop now instead of waiting for generations. It’s easy to get cynical when problems persist. If we were causing our own suffering, we would want to know.

"You can manage your happy brain chemicals when you know
how they work
in the state of nature."
--Loretta Breuning, PhD

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A shitty world

I was in cafe in Albania when cynicism suddenly made sense to me. I was being interviewed about my book Greaseless: How to Thrive without Bribes in Developing Countries. I had a translator with me, and the journalist had a translator with her, so every word we spoke was tortured through a human chain.
“What will your next book be about?” she asked me.

“Cynicism” I answered. I had embraced the topic when my anti-bribery book provoked astonishing pro-bribery defensiveness.

As I spoke the word “cynicism,” a flurry of debate erupted in Albanian. I heard the word “pessimism” in English.

“No!” I interrupted. “Cynicism is not the same as pessimism!” Then I froze. How could I explain the difference in a way that would survive this communication chain? The answer came to me from the curious smiles I see on people’s faces when they say “the world is going to hell in a handbasket.” Pessimism is distinctly unhappy, but handbasketism seems to make people happy. You hear an undertone of pleasure when someone makes an apocalyptic condemnation of “our society.”

So I told the Albanians, “pessimism feels bad but cynicism feels somehow good.” I couldn’t explain how in that cafe, but the question stuck with me. I had been studying the mammal brain for years. I knew that mammals strive to keep their genes alive with behaviors that are eerily familiar. Cynicism seemed like mammalian survival behavior with a veneer of sophistication.
For example, imagine a monkey munching on lotus roots at the edge of a river when he suddenly sees a crocodile. The monkey wants to avoid the pain of the crocodile’s teeth, but he also feels hunger pain. He solves the problem by scanning constantly for the crocodile while he continues eating. After each bite, he looks up quickly. If he sees the crocodile, he feels good because that means it’s safe to keep eating. If he doesn’t see the threat where he expected it to be, he runs like crazy because it could be approaching. Seeing a threat feels good because it relieves the bad feeling of not seeing it.

A monkey cannot rid the world of crocodiles. He learns to live with them. We mammals don’t run every time we see a threat. We’d never get anything done if we did. We learn to predict threats instead. A gazelle makes a prediction when it sees a lion. A lion makes a prediction when it sees a gazelle. A chimpanzee makes a prediction when it sees another chimp. A mammal who can predict threats can go about meeting its needs. Each correct prediction stimulates a drip of dopamine, and it feels good.

Cynicism parallels animal survival strategies in many ways. Imagine our monkey grooming the fur of a bigger, stronger troop-mate. A weaker monkey gains protection and reproductive opportunity when it bonds with a stronger monkey. Primates make careful decisions about whose fur to groom. If they choose well, the effort they invest in building social trust promotes survival. Cynicism helps people decide who their friends are, so their investments in grooming bring rewards instead of disappointment. Social trust triggers oxytocin, and it feels good.

Imagine a monkey whose banana gets seized by a bigger monkey. He feels bad, but starts looking for another way to meet his needs. When he sees another banana, he quickly scans to see who’s watching. He’s in luck! Only smaller monkeys are there, so it’s safe to grab the banana. A monkey would starve if it never grabbed the banana, but grabbing near bigger monkeys is harmful too. Mammals survive by making accurate social comparisons. They learn to assert when it’s safe and restrain when it’s not. The mammal brain releases serotonin when it sees that you compare favorably, and it feels good. Cynicism helps stimulate that feeling by making bigger monkeys look smaller. You don’t think this in words, but your inner mammal keeps seeking ways to meet your needs, and your verbal brain keeps trying to make sense of it.

You have more neurons than a monkey. You can feel good from good thoughts without actually grabbing bananas, grooming fur, or watching crocodiles. But there’s a down side to having a brain that runs on abstractions: bad thoughts can trigger bad feelings. You can suffer from crocodiles and bigger monkey without actually encountering them. You can end up with that “do something” feeling much of the time. Anything that relieves your “do something” feeling promotes survival from your mammal brain’s perspective. If cynicism brings relief, it can become a habit.

What do you mean by "cynicism"?

When I tell people I am writing about cynicism, they usually say “what kind of cynicism do you mean? ” They seem to think there’s a good kind and a bad kind. It’s bad when bad people use it to justify bad things. It’s good, people seem to think, when good people use it to get even with bad people. I don’tagree with this definition. When I hear it, I want to say “you’re using it to justify the good guys as you define them. ” I can’tsay that to a person’s face, but in this book I will avoid the temptation to have different standards for “good guys ” and “bad guys. ” Instead of distinguishing between good and bad cynicism, I will simply define cynicism as the belief that something is wrong with the world.

“But something is wrong with the world, ” you may quickly retort. It seems obvious if you’ve wired yourself to see the world that way. But you can wire yourself to see a world of opportunity instead of a world of flaws. You can take responsibility for your mammalian ups and downs instead of waiting for the world to change in a way that makes you feel good.

Transcending negativity means more than “gratitude ” or “optimism. ” It means feeling good about what you do in addition to feeling grateful for what you receive. It means moving between optimism and pessimism in response to new information instead of relying on patterns you wired in long ago.

You may think the bad guys will come out of the woodwork without your cynicism to keep them in check. But we’ll see that the opposite is true. Going “beyond cynical ” strengthens your ability to do what needs to be done.

Our minds are quick to distinguish good guys and bad guys because that promotes survival in the state of nature. Natural selection produced a brain that feels good when things look good for your social alliances. It feels bad when things look bad for your social alliances. This book was not written from the perspective of any one particular social alliance. There are no implied good guys and bad guys. Examples from nature and from my life are used to help the reader identify their own experience of these natural ups and downs. Your social allies are likely to reinforce your mammalian impulses because they are mammals too. But each person can transcend their mammalian negativity, whether those around you do so or not.

Your beyond-cynical habit may not please everyone. People who think they’re going to hell in a handbasket may say you’re selfish if you don’tjoin them in their ride. People who pride themselves on being critical may say you’re stupid if you dare to see positives where they see negatives. You can dare anyway. It’s your brain, so you get to decide.

Our brain needs habits to function because the world floods us with more detail than we can possibly process. We can only stop one habit by replacing it with another. This book shows how to build a positivity habit without telling you which positives to focus on. Instead of debating “issues, ” it shows how each brain creates its own negativity. It doesn’ttell you what is good but builds the habit of finding good for yourself. You may feel sure there’s nothing good you’ve overlooked, but when you understand the brain chemicals we share with all mammals, you will see beyond them.

Critical Ad Absurdum

The people around me say things are bad and getting worse. They say our leaders are bad, our culture is bad, our health is bad, our species is bad, our planet is going bad, the last century was the worst ever, and the new millennium is shaping up to be a bad one.

People who pride themselves on critical thinking seem to think they must criticize to stay in shape. When they go out for dinner and a movie, they look for flaws in the food and the film and the systems that created them. Reality disappoints as their brains skillfully compare it to their expectations. Disappointment triggers cortisol, which feeds the habit.

This is the job our brain evolved to do. It finds obstacles to meeting needs, and gives you a squirt of happy chemical when you overcome them. But soon the happy chemical is metabolized and you need to do more to get more. If you keep finding problems you can solve, you keep triggering good feelings in a brain that evolved for survival.

Mammals live in groups and learn from their group-mates. When those around you are alarmed, your internal alarm is easily triggered. A sense of crisis comes naturally to a big cortex attached to a mammalian limbic system. But this alertness to potential harm does not actually protect you from harm. It keeps you focused on old threats, which makes it harder to see new threats as well as new opportunities. You can re-wire yourself to see things in new ways, but this is harder than we expect it to be. Electricity in the brain tends to flow into well-developed channels. Your old thought patterns will seem real and true until you build new channels to give you electricity a new place to flow.

“Other people need to build new channels, ” you may be thinking. Other people often seem misguided because they are focused on their survival. Your mammal brain is focused on your survival, even though you don’tconsciously think so. You have no power over other people’s brains, so you are powerless if you focus on them. You have power over your brain, so you might as well make the most of it.

I used to be cynical. I was good at criticizing “the system. ” I’d feel strong for a moment, but soon I’d be frustrated again. I didn’tknow how else to think. When I was growing up, I mostly learned about frustration. When I was in school, I learned that frustration is caused by “the system, ” and happiness would sprout like daisies when “the system ” changed. Finally, in my forties, I discovered my inner mammal.

The problem with primates

My first trip to the Valley of the Monkeys made a huge impression on me, as described in my book I, Mammal. I longed to return just to make sure I didn’timagine it. Were perky French zookeepers really explaining sexual selection to the public? I got my chance to go back while writing this book, and was not disappointed.

It was feeding time at the mandrills when I arrived, and a keeper was telling the crowd that female mandrills try to mate with the male whose colors are brightest. Male mandrills have rainbow-colored fur on their derrière, and similar coloring on their faces. Males get this coloring to please females (plaire aux femmes), the keeper explained. In nature the colors are brighter than they are in a zoo (she points to a photo of this) because mandrills live in larger groups, so they must compete harder for female attention.

This sex talk was more colorful than I remembered from my first visit! The real subject was bigger than sex, of course. The keeper was acknowledging that competition is inherent in nature. This fact is taboo in California where I live, so I was thrilled to know you can say it publicly in France.

As the keeper explained the ins and outs of mandrill life, I heard many traits characteristic of baboons. I asked her about this and she told me that mandrills are less violent than baboons. Baboons compete for mating opportunity by fighting, but mandrills evolved a way to signal strength with color. They don’tneed to actually fight because they compete with appearances instead.

When humans compete with appearances, it may seem annoying. But if you think of it as a substitute for violence, you can see the good in it.

But a mandrill’s life has plenty of frustration anyway. Drab gray males sit around watching more colorful guys get all the action. Females end up frustrated because they all go for the same guy. Biology has something to teach us.

The luminosity of a male mandrill’s fur is caused by hormones that rise as his status in his group rises. A stronger mandrill gets more respect and more food, which gets him more strength and more deference and thus more food. Cooperation can raise his status too, but only if he cooperates with a guy who succeeds at ousting a rival. Mandrills are always trying to avoid painful conflicts. They threaten, they predict the outcome, and they settle. Good moves lead to brighter fur and more copies of your genes. A brain that’s alert for advantage is naturally selected for.

Female mandrills also compete for food because more strength leads to more surviving offspring. They cooperate sometimes when it gets them food or avoids pain. Stronger females get more attention from the colorful males and thus give their offspring the best genes. Natural selection built a brain that learns from what works.

A mandrill is not thinking about its genes. It is just trying to do what feels good and avoid what feels bad. It feels good when it gets food and social support, and that works for its genes. A lot bad feelings are triggered in a mandrill’s quest for things that feel good. A mandrill doesn’tsay “something is wrong with the world ” when it is disappointed. It doesn’tabstract and generalize because its cortex is too small. It just keeps trying to stimulate happy chemicals and avoid cortisol.

In the modern world, acting on your mammalian impulses can get you into trouble. We use our big cortex to think twice and seek alternatives before we act. But your neurochemical self is always there underneath the verbal abstractions. It is always looking for ways to stimulate your happy chemicals and avoid cortisol, basing its predictions on your past experience.

You are not consciously thinking about your genes. But any way of leaving your mark on the world triggers a big spurt of happy chemicals and gets your attention. You only have a limited amount of time to spread your unique individual essence. However you define that, you encounter obstacles as you strive for it, which trigger lots of cortisol. Sometimes you conquer them, but new obstacles appear. Your brain keeps trying to stimulate good feelings and avoid cortisol as long as you’re alive. When you feel like pulling your hair out, cynicism might seem like a better choice.

Think strong

Humans have a big reserve of extra neurons. Your cortex and your mammal brain work together to conquer obstacles, but there’s never an end to it. A mammal’s survival is threatened as long as it’s alive, and your big cortex can always anticipate more potential threats and obstacles.

Any way to feel strong helps us trigger more good feelings and relieve bad feelings. Social support helps a mammal feel strong. Getting protection or respect promotes survival and the mammal brain rewards them with a good feeling. Alas, the world does not give you a steady stream of protection and respect. And once you get it, you risk losing it. Anticipating that loss triggers cortisol, which gives you a threatened feeling even while you’re relatively safe. Our brain is always looking for ways to stop cortisol and feel strong.

In school I learned to feel strong by getting outraged. Fighting the political system was presented as the answer to all threats and obstacles. They told us “the personal is political,” and personal neurochemistry was unmentionable. But experience taught me that the political is personal. Political outrage feels good. It does not serve the public interest because negativity slows problem solving. The good feeling of outrage is soon metabolized and you need to get outraged again to feel strong again. This is not in your own best interest or the public interest. You may think your outrage serves the greater good, but it is just a habit wired into your neurons. You can do more for yourself and the world by going beyond it. You cannot control the world but you have some control over your own brain. You can change the world in your head. The world will be better off, and so will you.

The beyond-cynical habit

Anyone can transcend negativity with two simple thought habits: Personal Agency and Realistic Expectations. Personal Agency is the awareness that you can meet your real needs through your own actions. Realistic Expectations are the knowledge that rewards are unpredictable, and frustration is not a survival threat. When you PARE, you enjoy the act of meeting your needs instead of lamenting the world’s failure to meet them for you. Obstacles do not defeat you when your expectations are realistic.

You can build a PARE habit in six weeks by spending one minute thinking about something good three times a day.

It doesn’thave to be something ecstatic. It doesn’thave to be virtuous. It can be something accidental or something intentional. It can be something you receive or something you give or something you do for yourself. You can find the good news you overlooked in your rush to the bad news. You can find the benefits you obscure when you focus on the costs.

At first it can be hard to think of good things because nothing seems “good enough. ” But repetition will train your brain to find good things, and in six weeks you will do it automatically. You will find good as efficiently as you now find bad. If that seems foolish or weak, you can spend the rest of the day focusing on the bad. Now you will have a perspective for it. PARE and you will REAP, because Realistic Expectations lead to Acting Personally.

People who came before us took actions that benefit us today. We are able to face new problems because we inherited solutions to old problems. These problem-solvers were not always rewarded at the time. If people only did things that got rewarded immediately, much of the good in our world would not exist. Our ancestors persevered in the face of frustration, and we enjoy the fruits today. You can persevere whether or not you are applauded in the moment. You can trust rewards to come in ways you cannot predict.

Your mammal brain wants to build something that lasts. You get to define that however you want, but no matter how you define it, “your baby ” will face threats. It’s tempting to enter the Victim Olympics, but that does not help you build. Instead of focusing on the flaws of the world, you can focus on the steps you need to take. You can enjoy the act of stepping over obstacles instead of waiting for a world without obstacles. If you wait for a better world to make you feel good, you may wait too long.

Some people say it’s wrong to focus on yourself while the world is crumbling. But the world’s problems get solved by people like you as they work through the details of survival. You cannot build effective solutions while your attention is spread over the world at large. When you PARE your attention, you will solve real problems. You will start with things near you, where you have the power and the facts to do more than just theorize. As you step toward meeting your real needs, you will find new ways to manage threats and obstacles instead of just seeing a world of crisis. Cortisol will not derail you when you focus on your next step rather than on collapse and despair.

Some people say it’s impossible to meet your needs in the world as it is. You can “prove ” that to yourself because your brain flows information through the pathways you have. When you are looking for evidence that something can’tbe done, you skim over information about how it can be done. Your neural pathways shape the world you live in.

The brain is not aware of its own habits. That’s why this book starts with a thorough exploration of how the brain builds negative habits before addressing positive alternatives. If you want to start now on your new habit, you can peek at Chapter 6. Or you can sing yourself a chorus of “Don’tWait Too Long ” three times a day.

If you think the world must be fixed before you can feel good, this book offers a Plan B.

The rut

Our thoughts get into ruts because some neural pathways grow big from use. Electricity flows through them effortlessly, and you feel like you know what is going on.

A new thought forces you to use neurons that are not well-connected to each other. That takes so much effort that you feel less certain of what is going on. It takes so much concentration that you can’tdo other things at the same time. That’s why our well-worn neural pathways are tempting, even though we’re not consciously aware of them.

We don’tnotice our thought habits because they are just bridges between neurons. We built those bridges without effort or intent because neurons connect when happy and unhappy chemicals flow. Neurochemical ups and downs wired young mammals to do what it takes to meet their survival needs before the advent of language, diplomas, and curriculum experts.

While your own thought habits are hard to notice, other people’s thought habits can be painfully obvious. “You always say the same thing, ” we often want to say to others. Their neural pathways keep leading them to the same insights about the world around them. Our pattern-seeking brain has trouble seeing its own patterns, though it easily notices thought patterns that are different from its own.

We all think we’re open to facts, but the world floods our senses with so much detail that we have to sift and sort to make sense of it. We inevitably see the world through the lens of what triggered happy and unhappy chemicals in our individual past.

Each brain builds its neural network in youth. It’s hard to imagine childhood experience serving as your brain’s survival guide. Children have such limited insight into their survival needs that we often presume early learning is junk we can later delete. But a brain chemical called myelin surges in youth. It insulates neurons the way plastic insulates wires. That transforms some neural circuits into superhighways whose processing speed is like optical fiber compared to old-fashioned copper wire. The world makes sense effortlessly when it flows through your myelinated circuits. You know instantly what is good for you and what isn’tbecause of the neural networks you myelinated in youth. Once your reach your twenties, your peak myelin years are over and you tend to use the neural networks you have.

A child survives by trusting others to meet its needs as it gradually learns to meet its own needs. A child learns to interact with others in ways that feel good and avert feeling bad. Anything that feels good or bad connect neurons, and circuits build. The social experience of childhood lays the foundation for your life knowledge of how the world works. Early experience with people builds pathways that tell your brain what to expect from people later on.

Myelin surges during puberty, so the experiences of those years are central to a person’s expectations about the world. Anything relevant to reproduction triggers big neurochemical ups and downs in the mammal brain. Your inner mammal is more focused on the survival of your genes than it is on the survival of your body. That is, surviving to a ripe old age doesn’tkeep your genes alive unless you reproduce. So mammals have inherited a quirky inclination to take risks in order to get mating opportunity. You don’tconsciously care about your genes, but your neurochemicals spiked in ways you did not intend, and your neurons got connected.

Animals don’tthink about conception conceptually. Their brains release happy chemicals when anything enhances their reproductive prospects. Anything that improves strength, mating opportunity, and the survivability of the young stimulates happy chemicals. Anything that threatens strength, mating opportunity, or the survivability of the young triggers cortisol. Modern humans rarely equate reproduction with success. But when you understand the brain that natural selection built, your ups and downs are easier to live with.

The mammal brain can’tprocess language, so your mammal brain is literally not on speaking terms with your cortex. That’s why your verbal dialogue about good and bad doesn’talways match your neurochemical experience. Your neurochemicals can say “something is urgently wrong! ” while your big reserve of neurons says “it’s no big deal. ” Your cortex can make a big deal about something your mammal brain doesn’treally care about. Neither brain is right. They have to work together and it helps if they understand each other.

All through human history, people saw a world full of threats and looked for ways to “do something. ” We are here now because they did things that worked. They did not know what would work, and often felt that things were going to hell in a handbasket. If your ancestors knew you would be here enjoying the fruits of their efforts, they would have been happier. You can be happier by trusting that your efforts will matter even if the results aren’tvisible now.

“It’s not my happiness I’m concerned about, ” you may say. But your brain evolved to focus on you. If you focus on others it’s because that got you rewards in your past. It’s your rewards that trigger your happy chemicals. If you learned to get rewards by focusing on the pain of others, you can end up living in a world of endless pain without knowing you created that world in your mind. You are free to create a different one.

The chapters ahead

Chapter 2 shows why negativity feels good. When a mammal is threatened, it fights or flees to survive. Escaping a threat feels good. Cynicism is a convenient way to fight or flee. You can fight intellectually and avoid actual fights. You can flee cynically without actually running. Mammals also freeze and fawn in response to threat, and cynicism fits those responses too. These negative behaviors have their drawbacks, but when your cortisol is surging, “doing something ” relieves it. That feels good.

Chapters 3-5 show how cynicism triggers happy chemicals. Chapter 3 is on dopamine, which flows when the world meets or exceeds your expectations. Cynicism stimulates dopamine by creating expectations you can meet. You expect bad, and you get it. That seems painful, and it is, but your brain also gives you a momentary dopamine high when you confirm your predictions about how the world works. ( “I knew it! “)

Chapter 4 explores oxytocin, which is triggered by social trust. In the state of nature, social trust promotes survival, and mammals evolved a brain that rewards it with a good feeling. Cynicism stimulates oxytocin by uniting you with the good guys in your mind. You enjoy safety in numbers when you share the cynical views of a large group. Oxytocin is hard to stimulate because real interpersonal trust is hard to build, and misplaced trust is a survival threat. Cynicism is a convenient alternative.

Chapter 5 shows how cynicism stimulates serotonin. This is the good feeling released when a mammal gets ahead. Cynicism is a convenient way to get ahead because you can always imagine yourself smarter and more virtuous than “the idiots in power. ” Serotonin is not easy to stimulate in daily life where the mammals around you are trying to get ahead too. That makes cynicism appealing.

Chapter 6 shows how to build a beyond-cynical circuit in six weeks. You can train your brain to feel good about taking steps whether or not they get immediate rewards. Your Personal Agency will grow as you enjoy the act of building something. Your Realistic Expectations will keep you stepping through disappointments. PARE and you will REAP. You will see the good in yourself, and in the world.

Chapter 7 tells the story of my cynical days, and Chapter 8 shows how I got beyond it. I used to focus on the bad in the world, and everyone I knew did the same. I struggled to make sense of the world when my quest for happy chemicals was disappointed. I was tempted by the cynicism around me until I saw it through the eyes of my kids. I did not want them to grow up blaming the world for their problems. I needed to set a better example, fast. I had to find my strength so they could find theirs. I gave myself permission to leave the handbasket even when others thought I should go to hell with them.

Chapter 9 addresses the crisis goggles we bring to public affairs. When everyone around you sees crisis, it’s hard to do otherwise. If you see good in the world, people may say “What about the climate crisis? ” “What about the economic crisis? ” “What about the social crisis? ” Public discourse revolves around crisis and you may feel left out if you don’trevolve around it too. Few people see how their mind has built a template that lights up evidence of crisis and obscures other information. This chapter builds Realistic Expectations. Every generation before us has solved life-threatening problems. It’s realistic to expect our generation to solve problems too. Our threats seem worse because we feel them through the lens of our individual mortality. We will live on through the solutions we create just as earlier generations passed on solutions to us. The next generation may take these solutions for granted as they focus on a new crisis, just as we are doing. But we can honor our problem-solving skills instead of living with a constant sense of doom.

Chapter 10 honors the Personal Agency of past problem-solvers through books and movies. These stories show how people solved past problems by taking steps that were not rewarded in the short run. If people only did things that were cheered by adoring crowds, most of the good around us would not exist. Solutions got built by people who stayed focused on their next step instead of on fighting adversaries. These beyond-cynical lives remind us of the subtle rewards of sustained effort.

A thought experiment

Here’s a little gedanke to help illuminate your thought habits. Imagine you’re at an intersection with a four-way stop sign. Another guy rolls through his stop and you think, “That’s outrageous! He could have killed someone. Where are the police? What is wrong with this world!?! ”

The next day you roll through a stop sign. The police are there and you get ticketed.

You may think: “Everyone does it! Why should I get punished? The system is bad!! What’s wrong with this world?!?!? ” ”

But you could also think: “The rules protect me. No enforcement system can catch every violation. I volunteer for punishment if I choose to break the rules. I can protect myself by obeying the rules. I can be safe without controlling the world because I can control myself. ”

The cynical view creates a lose-lose world in which others are misguided and you are a victim. Instead, you can see a win-win world in which enforcement protects you from harm, and coming to a full stop protects you from getting a ticket.

You will not see the good if you are looking for the bad. It’s natural to look for the bad because the mind doesn’t waste energy keeping track of what goes right. We don’t appreciate the daily miracle of metal projectiles passing each other at high-speeds in safety. We don’t applaud the enforcement system when it runs without bribery, graft, and tribalism. Our minds zero in on threats. You are free to focus on what goes wrong and ignore what goes right. But if you do, you will live with a lot of cortisol, and miss a lot of good.
It’s your choice to make.