During this most uncertain time, it is completely normal for us to spend more time than usual thinking about the future. For many of us, this means our imaginations start churning out grim thought after grim thought, and oftentimes it’s not long after before we start to catastrophize. Catastrophizing means that we start to believe that the worst things we think up will actually happen.
As we cycle through this catalog of scary “what-if” scenarios, we start to layer fear after fear on top of each other, leaving us filled with anxiety and dread.
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you probably already know that I’m a High-Performance Coach who helps my elite clients reach their most cherished goals through a tools-based approach rooted in a positive mindset.
As such, it may surprise you to hear what I’ve been recommending my clients do when they start catastrophizing: Not only do I encourage them to spend time considering this worst-case scenario, but I also suggest they make a plan for it.
But there’s a catch!
It’s also vitally important to spend at least an equal amount of time planning for a best-case scenario, as well!
Let’s say, for example, we start to assume that we or our loved ones are going to get sick, that we will lose our jobs or be forced to close down our businesses, or that our country will never recover from the potentially devastating effects the COVID-19 pandemic could have on our economy. First, you must recognize that you’re catastrophizing by cycling through the worst-case scenarios. Next, think about your gameplan, backup plan, or what your course of action would be if the worst-case scenario were to actually occur.
Lastly, even the scales. If you spent 15 minutes catastrophizing and planning for the worst, spend the next 15 minutes imagining a scenario where you don’t get sick, where your loved ones stay healthy, or where you are financially secure. The goal is to give equal air-time to both. The good, the bad, and maybe even something in between.
If you are going to think about the future, make a conscious effort to think about the good things that could happen. Maybe you will become closer to your partner, to your children, or to your neighbors. Perhaps you will come up with an amazing business idea that helps people around you and increases your income at the same time. Try to shift your thinking away from everything that could go wrong, and instead focus on the opportunities and the possibilities that can help propel you forward.
The truth is, we don’t know what is going to happen when so many scenarios are possible. There truly is no downside to considering all of them – after all, you never know when your hypothetical plans for the worst-case scenario may actually need to be set in motion. But it’s important to remember that what we focus on expands. In other words, imagining a great future for later makes for a great day today.
For some of us, we worry that if we imagine a great future and set a high bar, then we are setting ourselves up to be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. What I would say to this is that you may actually be creating disappointment ahead of time when you don’t let yourself imagine something bright.
If you are facing something grim or disappointing, I promise you will be able to handle it.
Give equal air time to best and worst-case scenarios. Life is 50/50, and during this lockdown, you can ask your brain to spend equal time finding and focusing on the good. Seek out the positive news stories, look for the good parts of being at home, and find examples of kindness in your community. This will make for a brighter day and a more positively imagined future.
Things are not easy right now, and the hard truth is we are likely to see them get worse before they get better. But you have the power to let the silver lining in all of this be that social distancing and changes in our working patterns give us an opportunity to shift our focus to personal development and growth.
Devote this extra time and energy to developing your inner strength and emotional intelligence. If you are struggling in any way, I invite you to schedule a consultation call with me. Remember, all of my calls can be done virtually on Zoom or Skype, or over the phone.
Melanie Shmois, MSSA, LISW-S, is a licensed social worker, holding a Master’s Degree (MSSA) from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Spanish. After spending 2 decades helping others achieve their mental and personal goals, Melanie worked with Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo, and became a certified Life and Weight Coach through the Life Coach School.