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  • Writer's pictureRobert Norton

Let's choose hope

I recently read a post by psychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D., who described the evolutionary origins of our “us versus them” instinct. He wrote:

“For several million years, our hominid and early human ancestors lived and evolved in small hunter-gatherer groups that competed with one another for scarce resources. When bands met, they often fought. Therefore, genes got passed on that promoted more cooperation inside a band and more aggression toward the ‘other.’

It’s evolutionarily natural to fear strangers, who were indeed often threats at an earlier time in human history. The related impulse to dehumanize and attack ‘them’ served to pass on genes for millions of years."

A healthy dose of vigilance keeps us safe and staves off complacency. But when we are motivated by fear and anger, we end up exhausted, overwhelmed, and bitter.

We need to work together to solve the complex problems we face in the office and in the world. The mechanisms of our brains caught up in fear and anger aren’t the ones that allow for curiosity and innovation. Nor are they the best emotions to help us persuade, educate, or create sustainable change.

We have many problems to solve, but first, we must choose whether we want to lead with fear or hope. And second, we need to challenge ourselves to look for the good in others.


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