Do you Catastrophise or Awesomphise?


Ok. You've figured out your goal, made a plan, got your boss on board in your what's stopping you?

For a lot of people last week it seemed to be overwhelm. (Is that a noun now by the way??). But it has, and it can be overwhelming!

People know what they need to do but are frozen by what that leads to.

For example, I ask 'Why can't you call X and ask for Y' and the response would be "But if I do that, I’ll need to do this, and what if they ask that, and then that will lead to this...."


I know the realities of business, and how fast everything moves nowadays. And by all means be prepared for what might happen. But don’t be frightened. Be aware. But don’t let it stop you taking the first step.

It's like this. Just thinking about snakes makes my husband's skin crawl. They don't bother me at all. Snakes around your neck on holiday in Lanzarote, all that jazz. But obviously they're dangerous, so I don't want my 4-year-old picking up the next one he sees (lets face it, I live in Sydney, it's not a big issue). Nonetheless, the message we came to was this; You don't have to be 'scared of snakes' unless one is actually climbing up your trouser leg. You need to be aware if you're somewhere they might be and you need to know what to do if one bites you on the nose. But you don't have to be scared of them as a general rule, all the time, even if you just see one on the telly.

Don't spend time worrying about what might happen, or being scared of things you might never have to deal with. One step at a time.

If I call X. I will have called X.

This is all that is going to happen right now.

It will (hopefully) lead to other things, but you can think (not worry) about that when you know what those things are.

People in the mind-biz call it catastrophising. 

Catastrophising has two parts: 
Part 1: Predicting a negative outcome.
Part 2: Jumping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome did in fact happen, it would be a catastrophe.
Part 1: Student worries they will fail an exam.
Part 2: Student jumps to the conclusion that failing an exam would be a catastrophe. They imagine that if they were to fail an exam, it would mean they would never be a success in their life.
Counter evidence is that many people who are eventually successful have failed an exam before. And, many types of important exams even offer multiple opportunities to sit them.

But I think this is a very one-sided perspective.

I think there are two types of overwhelm; Catastrophising, and (you heard it here first folks) Awesomphising (why not, Catastrophising is a made up word too isn't it?!)

I totally agree that this is a common behaviour that should have it's own name and ways to deal with it, but I think that 'catastrophising' assumes that the stuff you’re worrying about is all negative, when that’s not always the case.

You can be overwhelmed by the amount of parties you have to go to this weekend. It’s all good stuff, but it’s still a lot to figure out and you still need a system to make it all work.

You can be overwhelmed with a new promotion and the responsibility that holds.

You can be overwhelmed by the amount of new business coming your way.

For example, "If I do this call and get lots of business then I’ll get snowed under and …." If you run your own business this is a good thing. New biz is what you want. Prepare for what might happen, but don't let it stop you from moving forward. And remember that this is a good outcome.

It's that 'fear of success' thing which I never understood until recently. An old colleague reminded me how we used to feel when we were SO busy at work, nailed a pitch and spent the next 2 weeks hoping we wouldn't win it!

Of course if you're the boss, winning the pitch is the #1 goal. However, if you work for the man and you’re working on a pitch, depending on your role, winning it could be happy days or the end of your social life as you know it. 

But there’s no point worrying about that until you know the result.

And then it’s your choice what you do next. Whether you work on it, don’t, work hard, don’t, leave the agency, don’t…

This is easier said than done, I’m constantly telling myself to pull it back to the next step.

I used to work with a client who flat out refused to diarise her calendar because "What if stuff comes in? I can't just ignore it!" Guess what. It didn't. And she got nothing else done that day either because there was no plan in the first place.

First off you've got to get a handle on how to manage overwhelm when it hits. Tools I use are around 'break down', diarising, 'one step', prioritisation techniques.

And once you've calmed down, you can decide whether you're catastrophising or awesomphising.

What's the worst that can happen?

What's the best that can happen?

Can we please acknowledge the 'worst', note any urgent actions that might be necessary and then remember that this is a big, fat 'IF' and stop worrying about it?

Let's concentrate on what's the best that can happen?

Say this in a happy, excited voice...

"What's the best that can happen? How will I manage that? Hell, let's deal with it when it happens. Let's get on the phone already!!"

See the difference?

As Big Kev would say, "I'm excited!"