Monday, June 13, 2011

Keys to Happiness: No Catastrophizing

Forget your troubles come on get happy! For this six week series, we'll discover some of the keys to happiness!

Catastrophizing? Think of a small snowball at the top of a mountain. As it rolls down, it picks up more snow and gets bigger. As it rolls, it also gets faster as it picks up momentum. Soon the snowball is huge as it barreling towards the bottom of the mountain at a break-neck pace.
Now, imagine a bad day at work. Your boss is not happy with something you submitted. It wasn't what he was looking for at all. You leave the meeting, shaken. Even though he sat down with you, told you what was wrong, how to fix it and gave you a few days to get it together, you are lost in thought as you drive home.
What will happen if you can't fix the report. What if you lose your job? In this economy, what will happen if you can't find another one? You only have so much in savings and your whole household budget is based on two incomes. Money is already a stressor at home. By your calculations, your saving will be depleted in three months.
What then? You might lose your house. Maybe you'll lose your marriage. As you pull into the driveway, you imagine you and the kids checking into a homeless shelter.
That's catastrophizing. A bad report (a snowball) spiraled into divorce and homelessness (a major snow boulder!). Catastrophizing is how we use our vivid imaginations to make bad things worse ... and before they even happen.
The best way to handle catastrophizing is to place your focus back on the original problem. The commute home from work would have been better spent reviewing the boss's suggestions. What can you do differently? Is there anyone who can help? Can you shift your schedule around so you can go in earlier or stay later? What can you do the next time to make sure you understand exactly what he's looking for. These are the kinds of questions that will empower you and not derail you.
If you find that snowball getting bigger, stop and question it. What are the chances of you really losing your job over this? Will your spouse really leave you? Do you think you'll actually end up in a homeless shelter?
Think of your imagination as you would electricity. It can illuminate a city or power an electric chair. The electircity hasn't changed. It's the application that is dramatically different. Let your imagination be a tool for good, a tool that empowers and motivates. Let it light up your life.
And by all means, keep your snowballs small!

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