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January 11, 2023

Implement a “How Can We?” Response Pattern

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Something that is hard-wired into us, over the course of years of evolution, is negativity bias. To put it more simply, as humans we are designed to find the bad in things. This is because back when our brains we’re evolving, it was very important that we were hyper-aware of the things in our environment that were negative, dangerous, threatening, or otherwise concerning. It literally was a matter of life and death.

But today, things are very different. We don’t require the same vigilance for the things around us, yet that part of us still plays a central role in our psychology. This is often the source the prevents us from dreaming bigger, feeling capable, and having confidence - it’s because our brain finds all the reasons why we "can’t" and overlooks the reasons why we can. It’s an unconscious bias, but we can overcome it by being more conscious about how it affects us. With a little more awareness and understanding this inclination doesn’t have the same power over us.

So how can we get intentional about working on this? It’s by setting an intention on how you want to be in certain situations. When you choose how you want to be you have an extra force in your psychology that pulls you to be that way.

One of the ways we can do this is by implementing a “How can we?” response pattern. Instead of allowing your brain to see all of the reasons why a new idea won’t work, you can train yourself to ask a more empowering question.

Let’s say you couldn’t focus during your meditation. You could get self-critical and judgmental, which is negativity bias, or you could ask yourself “How could we do better next time?” It represents the perspective of possibility and opportunity rather than despair and deprecation.

Or if there’s a daunting new business idea you have. Instead of reflecting on the idea with all of the reasons why it’s going to be hard or where you might fail (which prevents you from even trying), you can ask yourself the question “How can we get the first version of this business off the ground?”

It completely changes the energy you use to approach a challenge. Unconsciously the default is negative, that’s just the way our brains are designed to work, but consciously it can be positive and optimistic. To promote the latter, the goal is to interrupt the normal pattern, create awareness on how you want to relate with the situation, and use the prompt you’ve now learned to change your thinking. You do it enough times and it will become more natural, more familiar, and more default.

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