“If you can be less negative, your life will change forever,” he explained. “Negativity is that powerful.”
According to Moawad, when experts from Harvard, Georgetown and the University of Pennsylvania studied the effects of positive thinking on athletes and organizations, the data was inconclusive. In fact, “being positive doesn’t help you win more games,” he said.
So Moawad and his partners began to examine the reverse: How does negative thinking work?
“We looked at the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic and found that negative thinking is 85 to 100% successful,” he said, “It facilitated illnesses and even created some. It reduced decision making by 50%, reduced creativity by 18 to 30% and reduced our willingness to take risks by almost 40%. We started to understand that being more positive wasn’t the game changer but being less negative was.”
Surprisingly people’s largely negative inner thoughts don’t have much power. “But when we say it out loud, we believe it 10 more times more. That means saying a negative statement out loud increases its probability by 40 to 70%!”
“Every day, you are competing against your own words,” he explained. “External words predict and perpetuate our performance. … [I]f we don’t verbalize negative thoughts, then we don’t give them 60 to 70 times the power… and our bandwidth, psychologically, becomes more free to find solutions, solve problems and do our job, whatever that is.”
Moawad also encouraged participants to reduce their own consumption of negativity. “Start with the basics,” he said. “’What am I saying out loud? What am I watching? Who do I talk to?’ We are wired to receive negativity and we’ve never been surrounded by more of it than we are today.”
During his presentation and the Q&A moderated by VCU School of Business Dean Ed Grier that followed, Moawad shared powerful statistics and anecdotes that made it clear: “You can redesign your life to get it the way you want it. The key is focusing on your behavior and language, reducing your consumption of negative and shifting down to neutral.”