Randy R. Cox

The power of positive action has become so important in western culture, that few would challenge it.  How about the power of negative action?  There is magic in a positive thought, but what magic can be found in a negative thought?

Negative thinking is just the exact opposite of positive thinking, right?  Maybe!  Maybe not.  It depends on your angle of approach.  You can use negative actions in very positive ways.  The fact that so few consider it, means it is a tool of surprise.  No one expects it; therefore it can be even more powerful than positive action.

power of negative action

Letters From Grandma showing power of negative action

In art, an artist can use negative space  to intensify the positive image.  Negative space in a painting is the part of the paper or canvas that is blank.  Notice in my example here how Michael Atkinson uses the negative space to suggest fog, snow, mist, sand or whatever the imagination can conceive.  The white space is unrestrained in meaning.  It is suggestive.  It hints only enough to get the juices of the viewer flowing.  It is dynamic and lives in the viewer as well as the artist.  It makes a much larger statement than a rigid fully contained detail.  When the detail is explicit,  it may or may not suit the viewer’s taste, but when left to the mind of the viewer, it will be filled in exactly as the viewer wants it to be.  It becomes a conversation of visual art rather than a lecture.

Art is never distinct from life or business.  It always reflects life.  Negative action in life and business can be similar to the experience we have in art.

The Power of negative action is simply the power of not doing of something.  It is common in negotiation for a nervous bargainer to talk too much.  While the more experience negotiator remains silent, the nervous one will tell everything he knows, trying to fill the uncomfortable void.  Silence is a negative action.  Like the white space in a painting, silence can say whatever the listener wants it to say.  A highly skilled negotiator should learn to feel comfort in silence.  It gives one strength.  When two equally skilled negotiators meet, each allowing the other to fill the void with information and nervous talk, a smile soon crosses the face of each as they learn to respect the skill of the other.  A stronger bond can result from silence between the skilled than could ever result in two novices talking over each other and going nowhere.

There is also a place for negative action in the budget.  It is easy to throw money at a problem, but sometimes it is better to not spend money.  Sometimes it is better to avoid the expense by doing nothing than to make a problem worse by spending and spending and spending.  The United States Government could take a lesson here.  No action is often better than bad action.

I tried to quit smoking for decades.  If I asked anyone, smoker or non-smoker if they thought my trying to quit was a positive action, they would all agree.  It was a positive action, but it always had a negative result.  I always started smoking again.

Too tired to take on another  “stop smoking campaign”, I just decided not to smoke anymore.  I didn’t have to do anything.  In fact, after the decision, as long as I did nothing else, I was done.  It was that simple.  It may sound crazy, but that was seven years ago; I’ve never smoked another cigarette since.  The most fantastic thing is I had to do nothing at all to accomplish what I had failed in all those years to trying this and that to no avail.

It was the power of negative action.

As I write this, it occurs to me that I’m almost 30 lbs overweight.  I’ve been eating all the right foods, with the occasional bowl of ice cream, or large pizza, or sugary soft drink to celebrate.  The more I celebrated my diet actions, the more excess weight I’ve put on. I can’t go on this way.  I’m tired.  I think I’ll just quit eating and see what happens.  Let nature do all the work.  Okay, I’ll eat a little, but mostly I’ll just be lazy and do nothing and see what happens.  I’ll give negative action one more test and see if it will work on my eating problem the same way it did for my smoking problem.

The sad thing is that it seems such an astonishing concept.  Negative Action?  To lose weight, just don’t eat.  It seems too easy to be true.  Positive thinking is still important, but we need a little balance in our life.  We need the power of negative thinking.  We need to utilize intelligent negative action.

One more great thing about negative action is that we can add a lot of good negative action to our agenda without crowding out the positive actions.  Most of us have  more on our ‘to do” list than we can possibly get done.  We can add all the new negative things to our list and they will take up zero time except for the time it takes to write them down and moniter them.  We don’t have to do anything, just do nothing and in about 21 days we can call it a habit and mark it as done.

So much attention is placed on positive thinking in our modern culture, we lose the power of  negative thinking because we don’t consider it.  What a mistake?

I tried for 30 years to quit smoking.  I failed so many times, I was disgusted with myself.  One day, I decided to take another approach.  Instead of quitting which is a positive action that requires me to do something and persist with it forever, I decided to just not smoke anymore.  Whew!  The thought of that overwhelms me.  I didn’t have to do anything.  All I had to do was not smoke!  As long as I did nothing, I was finished with tobacco.

The same is true of losing weight.  Diets are hard.  We have to count calories, watch what we eat, when we eat it, and how much we exercise.  If we just stop eating, we will lose weight!

For every positive thought that has value, there can be an inverse application of that value when considered from another angle.   For every positive action, there is an equal and opposite negative action.