Don’t Touch The Hot Stove! by Dr. Karen
We’ve all had experience with this before.
Whether it’s because we were told this when we were young or that we told this
to our children at one time or another, we try to convey this message over and
over: Don’t touch the hot stove! Of course, when someone said it to you, what
did you do? You now understand why you shouldn’t touch the hot stove, yet
there is still the temptation to do it. So why exactly do we do this? Is it
something wrong with us? Is there some force driving us to do this?
First, let me take a moment to reassure you, it is definitely not something
wrong with you.
We, as human beings, are naturally curious people. An interesting point
about the way we learn is that negative experiences teach us more quickly
and are things that we learn the most from. Touching the hot stove, why you
shouldn’t lick a freezing pole in the middle of winter, or even how you should
act around people, are some examples of how we quickly learn from negative
experiences. This concept is one that is actually tied closely with Negativity
We have all experienced Negativity Bias in one way or another. Most people focus
on the negative side of things or the potential negative consequences of a risk
they are presented. “What if I fail?” or “What are the downsides?” are
common questions we ask ourselves when presented with a situation that we
determine could be risky. Think about this for a moment. How many times a day do
you ask yourself a question about a situation and you place the possible
negative results first?
Let’s say that you are working in the office one day and your boss approaches
you. She tells you that there is a position opening at a higher level and the
management team would like to consider you for it. This sounds pretty good,
right? To make it even better, your boss tells you they believe you have an 80%
chance of getting this job! You can already imagine how much nicer it’ll be to
be in that new position. You’d get a new office with a great view of the city,
a decent bump in pay, and even more vacation time. But here’s the catch: you
have to deliver a presentation in front of the CEO about why you would be a good
fit for this position.
If you don’t convince the CEO that you’re the best fit for the job, you’ll
probably be stuck where you’re at for a long time. Now take a moment to let
this sink in. What are you thinking right now? Already you can probably start to
feel the tug of the negative emotions like fear, anxiety, or even possibly
resignation to the thought of even trying for the position. Even though your
boss told you that you have an 80% chance of getting this job, you are realizing
that means you have a 20% chance of failure. What would happen if you didn’t
do well? Would your boss be disappointed in your performance? In the future,
would the CEO no longer consider you for a similar position if it opens up? What
if you give such a poor performance that it actually leads to your demotion, or
worse: your termination from the company?
In situations where risk is involved, we will always weigh the negative results
of our decisions more heavily than the positive. Our early ancestors learned
quickly that most things aren’t worth risking your life for. We inherited that
negativity bias thought process from them. In some cases, this leads us to being
much more cautious about what we choose, sometimes deciding to not pursue action
even when there is a high chance of success. If you are romantically interested
in a person, you may choose not to ask them out for fear of the potential
rejection. Perhaps you would decline to apply for the position your boss
offered. Or maybe you’d decide you will try for the position your boss
offered, but you are already certain you won’t get the position. In each of
these examples, a simple shift in how you think about the opportunity can help
We are all familiar with a phrase that says, “What you give out is what you
get in return”. There are tons of quotes out there about this concept and, in
fact, this is part of a concept that we are all familiar with called, “The Law
When you focus on the negative side of things, sadly enough you will most likely
have negative results. If you focus on the fact that you have a 20% chance of
bombing your presentation with the CEO, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Some people focus so exclusively on that 20% that they will never try. They
excuse that by saying to themselves, “It would never have worked anyway”, as
if that were somehow a fact.
Instead of focusing on what can go wrong or what the downside of an action is,
acknowledge that everything has a downside, then ask yourself what the benefits
would be of taking that risk or what positive results would flow from that
decision. So, you have an 80% chance of improving your position in the company,
improving your life financially, and gaining a new circle of influence. How much
should that 20% downside affect your decision to try? After all, you do
have a four in five chance of success!
The concept Attraction can be applied to your personal life as well: A person
you are interested in dating but you aren’t sure of how they feel about you; A
situation arises where you could move to a new place, start a new career, and
meet new people: You are given the opportunity to adopt an animal. Start by
approaching opportunities as positive blessings from a loving universe. Look for
the good first, acknowledge that some downside attaches to every decision.
Remember that for every choice you have ever made, there was both a benefit and
a downside. By focusing more on the positive side of things, you can begin to
see more clearly, the benefits of these opportunities. It might be a little
tough at first to focus more on the positive side of things, but by continually
reminding yourself that your first and primary responsibility is to make
fantastic decisions, it will eventually become second nature to you.
Of course, there is a lot more to this than just the decision. A great person
once said this to me: ”You have two frogs on a log. One decides to jump off.
How many frogs are on the log now?” The answer is “Two”. Decision means
nothing if you don’t turn that decision into action.’ With each decision you
make, it is always important to follow it up with an action consistent with the
So, make the decision now to truly focus on the positive results. Then take an
action to make that happen. After all, what could go right? Your new office is
Dr. Perkins is a highly accomplished coach, mentor, speaker, and evaloped the
Rapid Breakthrough System for personal growth.