Tuesday, November 2, 2010

#Positivember and the response continuum

Over my first coffee this morning I happened across the following tweet from Corey Haines:
"Today is day 2 of a month long positivity-fest! Love your life: #positivember http://vurl.me/WJU"
I almost feel bad for saying this, but it’s the truth: that handful of words irked me. Why? I think it’s because of my default interpretation. A month long positivity-fest sounded to me like some kind of rose-tinted denial of reality. Images of well-meaning but na├»ve parents that abound in a nearby town I’ll not name sprang to mind. The kind that work really hard to stop their children from expressing themselves when upset. The kind that want to insist that everything is always great. Even a cursory look at the psychological impact of that kind of suppression reveals that it probably ain’t healthy...

Then I read Corey’s blog post. It’s not (thankfully) quite that kind of hippy-dippy call to action. It’s much more an observation on how high levels of negativity are counter productive. How a concerted effort at positivity is the order of the day for advancing the notion of software craftsmanship. I’m up for that.

Still not sure I can quite buy into the notion of being completely positive about everything for the whole next month. Dropping the moaning and whining and negativity though is a good thing. It’s a bad habit I’ve had since forever. It’s easy to find fault and complain about silly little things.

A bit later, as I was walking the dog, an idea popped into my head that might help explain why the “all positive all month long” concept is hard for me. I believe gunning for all out positivity is an extreme reaction to the unpleasant other end of the scale. I think when we respond to something, that response lies somewhere along a continuum a bit like the following:
Sabotage → Meanness → Negativity → Apathy → Constructive Criticism → 100% Positivity
Reducing things to a binary negativity/positivity option over simplifies the matter. It’s the stuff to the left of the middle that’s toxic. To the right is great. I like to think I’m over there more and more these days, but still have plenty of work to do.

Not too long ago I read “The Lazy Manifesto” blog post by Leo Babauta on his zenhabits.net website. Items number 5 – “Do less complaining and criticizing” and number 7 – “Do less judging and expecting” are, for me, a more palatable way to think about what I believe Corey is trying to achieve with #postivember.

I hope I'm not too far off track. Even if I am a bit, those two ideas resonate with me and since making a conscious effort to try and adhere to them I have to say things feel good.

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