Why Negativity is Good

It keeps us from wandering too far astray. Haha, imagine a world with no negative feelings! It’d be like that M. Night Shyamalan movie— a total hellscape! People destroying themselves left and right, unchecked self-destructive behavior everywhere!

We feel positive when we behave in ways that make us feel good. If we eat delicious food or awake refreshed after a great night of sleep, we feel happy and joy because those actions are healthy. Feeling positive reinforces healthy actions and behaviors.

Likewise, we feel bad when we engage in self-destructive/unhealthy behaviors. We feel awful after consuming too much liquor. We feel exhausted after pulling an all-nighter. Those negative feelings is our body warning us to not repeat these actions.

Positivity and negativity are flip sides of the same coin– they cannot exist absent each other. Both are our friends. Like a world without brake lights, a world absent negativity would be disastrous.

Furthermore, I argue that a life well-lived is a life where someone has encountered a high number of negativities. I would much rather live a life having experienced 100 positives and 200 negatives than a life of 10 positives and 1 negative.

It is simple logic: Positive experiences are much more valuable (and thus more heavily weighted) than negative experiences. If I taste 100 foods and dislike 90, I’ll never eat those 90 foods ever again. But the 10 dishes I do enjoy, I’ll eat many more times, until the end of days!

Life is like the timeless BFS vs DFS challenge. Do we go broad? Or do we go deep? Obviously, the answer is both, depending on the details. But if I were forced to choose only one: I contend that we go broad.

The next great adventure might be the one right around the corner. Your next favorite dish might just be the one you decide not to order. The love of your life may very well be that very next date. (Related: Optimal Stopping Problem.)