Blog of Sara Jakša

Difference Between Improving and Feeling Good

There is a story, that have really struck a cord with me, and I don't mean in a positive way. It goes something like this:

There were two groups of writers. In one group, the writers. would always point out the positive things they noticed in each other writing and in the other, they would point out the things that did not work as well. After years, half of the people in the first group were published authors, and none in the second.

What is the thing that bothered me the most? The notion that somebody would be able to become a whole new level with positive feedback only. And for a long time I though that it is a 'me' kind of thing. After all, apparently not remembering if the parents ever praised me and not carrying if they did not was the reason for quite some pity and horror.

If should be clear to anybody that have just a passing interest in the personal development. Making sure that people feel good is the first step to actually making improvements. Quite a lot of times feeling good, or feeling happiness was the ultimate goal.

But when I started to actually started reading scientific articles, the picture that they painted was not that clear. There are quite a lot of support that it is not the positive feelings, but the negative feelings that actually improve people.

There was an interesting study that showed that people feeling benign envy were more motivated to improve than people feeling admiration. Some other showed that people feeling the emotions connected with pain, were more likely to show improvements. in their life. Anybody that though through the application of deliberate practice had probably realized that it is a lot more uncomfortable than simply practicing the skill that somebody is already good at.

And what I think is behind it is the difference in the goal. Positive emotions lead to the positive feelings and to the life filled with happiness. Negative emotions lead to improvements., which then goes to constant rising of the lifestyle. And with the lifestyle I don't mean just financial, but any part of it that is important to a person.

Sure, people want to have the cake and eat it too. I remember when I presented the fact that benign envy is better emotion for improvement than admiration. Some of the people started to try and explain it away, unable to even entertain it. Some seems to have taken it in a humorous way. But then again, I know that at least one of the latter already told me that she does not understand why selfish pursuit of happiness. is considered a goal in out society. I think it shows that she, at least on some level, understood the dichotomous relationship between emotions and reactions.

So now everytime that people tell me to be more positive, which happens frequently enough that it is a tiny bit annoying, I remember this insight. I remind myself that these people seems to either want me to be happy or they don't know this connection. If it is the former, while I don't really wish for that, I can at least accept it that they seems to have my best interest in their mind.

But instead, I make sure that I put myself in the situation when I can feel these feelings. I want to have these feelings of dread, anxiety, fear, anger, annoyance and so on. Even if sometimes the things that I do would not produce these feelings in others, like asking the administration of my university to let me experiment with my studies. On the other side some things that other people seems to steer clear of, would not produce these feelings in me, like living in another city or petting snakes. I like snakes.

It is important that each person find their own way of inducing these feelings and then even when feeling them takes actions. It is only through these that we are able to evolve ourselves. And maybe we can even reach a new evolution state, like in Pokemons. But in this case I think we are most likely Eevees, since I think each of us have multiple evolutionary paths that we can take.

If the situation is still the same as the first couple of seasons in the anime, Pokemons still have to battle to reach a new form. The same way we can't improve with being wrapped in the blanket of positive feeling. We would be like Jim Kirk while in Nexus, where nothing happened to him for decades. Though, now that I think about it, considering most people wanted to stay in Nexus, maybe most people don't want to improve? Depressing, considering that Star Trek was considered the utopian society.

I guess what I was trying to say is, that improvement needs negative footer. So get some, in any way you know how, be it from the outside world or inside.