Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
Proverbs 18:21

"How did you think the meeting went?" I asked a colleague on his way out of a meeting with a sales prospect. "Oh, I had no real expectations. They probably can't do much, and I am not sure they understood what I told them. But who knows?"

"You sound pretty negative," I commented. "No," he said, "I'm just realistic. I'm negative by choice."

There is one good thing about being negative: You reduce your chances of disappointment. If your predicted negative outcome shows up, you have the satisfaction of "I told you so." You have less chance of being embarrassed by failure, since that's what you predicted. But if by some miracle a better outcome occurs-hey, you have the good outcome to be happy about!

I think that's the story chronically negative people tell themselves. They are trying to minimize the pain of disappointment.

But it's a bad strategy.

Why is it a bad strategy? Shouldn't we try to avoid pain, when possible? Won't that make it easier to endure the inevitable difficulties and disappointments that are a necessary part of life? In a word: No.

It's a bad strategy because everything we think, say, and do has an impact on the universe around us. It follows something called "the law of sowing and reaping."

Whatever your spiritual persuasion, you have heard some variant of "what goes around, comes around." Every thought we think, every word we speak, every action we take, sets into motion a chain of events in the universe whose character is determined by the character of that thought, word, or deed. Sow good-reap good. Sow evil-reap evil.

The Heisenberg Principle can be expressed as follows: For sub-atomic particles, no observation can be made that does not affect what you are trying to observe. You are always a participant.

It's the same with thought, speech, and action. What you think is what you get. What you say is what you get. What you do is what you get.

As an engineer, you have a better chance of grasping this principle than most others do. It's nothing more than the systems view of life. Nothing happens by itself; everything affects everything.

If you doubt this, try a simple experiment: For two weeks, make a determined effort to think, speak, and do only positive things, to the best of your ability. If something bad happens, try to think of some positive aspect of it. If you are disappointed by events, make up a story that explains why it was the best outcome for all involved. If someone wrongs you, think of something good to do for them.

Keep a journal about this time. Jot down everything that happens. I promise you it will surprise you in several ways: For one, you will be amazed at the extent of your previous thoughtless negativity. For another, your will see a shift in outcomes-there will be more positive ones.

And you will find yourself smiling more.

Here's why you should try this experiment, even if you take a certain pride in your "realistic" negativity. If it works, you will have found a happier way to avoid the pain and shame of disappointment. And if it doesn't, you'll have an experimental basis for rebuking all those annoying people who keep pointing out your negativity and its self-fulfilling-prophecy nature.

You can't lose!


Dr. Joel Orr is VP of business development for KollabNet, Inc. (www.kollabnet.com). Write to him at joel.orr@gmail.com. Visit his new website, "The EIM Coffeehouse," at http://eim.squarespace.com.