This article is a continuation from 8 Reasons Why You Might Struggle to Take in the Good: Part One, Two, and Three .

7. Evolution programmed our brains to focus on the negative.

Let’s imagine that you’re living thousands of years ago. You and your family are hanging out around the fire, telling stories, having a good time, when suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you spot a shadow. The first thought that enters your mind: “Tiger!”

You don’t know whether it’s a real tiger or not, so what do you do? Do you investigate the shadow? Or run and hide with your family?

If you hide, you miss out on the opportunity to discover what the shadow was. But, if you check it out, you risk death.

Most people would run and hide and with good reason.

Fast forward to the present day: Our ancestors’ habit of being hyper-alert for potential danger is still alive and well in our brains. You and I are the descendants of people who ran from the shaking bush.

As Rick Hanson writes, our brains are designed to be “like velcro for the negative and like teflon for the positive.” We reshape our brains by taking in the good.

8. You may expect joy to be extraordinary and overlook the ordinary.

Since I began career and leadership coaching in 2013, I’ve started every coaching session with the question, “What’s new and good?” Often, my clients struggle to answer.

There’s a myth out there that joy is a mystical experience. And sure, joy is sometimes ecstatic and magical. But it doesn’t have to be. Often, joy comes in ordinary moments.

My clients have an easier time answering my question when they realize that new and good does not need to mean brand new and extraordinary.

In my early twenties, I spent time doing human rights accompaniment with the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico. I remember how grateful I felt when I finally had the privilege of using a flush toilet and taking a warm shower after several weeks. Many people never experience these luxuries.

Each time you drink a glass of water, it is new and good. Each breath, each heartbeat, each sunrise is new and good. Simply noticing what is good is new and good.

Most nights at the dinner table, my family asks each other what’s new and good. Usually, the answers are mundane: “We’re reading a new book in lit group today” or “I was cold outside, and now I’m warm inside.”

If you struggle to find joy in the little moments, I invite you to start asking yourself and your people what’s new and good. Pay attention to how you feel. You may notice a sense of newfound connection with the other person. You’ll probably feel pretty good.


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