How to use Real Time Resilience to deal with catastrophic thinking

22 Feb How to use Real Time Resilience to deal with catastrophic thinking

In last week’s article, I introduced you to Benefit Finding, a great tool to build your resilience after a setback. This week I continue that resilience theme with another great tool – Real Time Resilience.

The human brain is wired to pay more attention to the negative than the positive. That makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Picture your early ancestor walking through the forest. It’s ok if they didn’t notice the pretty flower on the side of the path, but if they didn’t notice the saber-toothed-cat creeping up behind them, you might not be here today.

Our minds favor the negative because it keeps us safe. Faced with the unknown, it’s safer to assume the worst than to hope for the best. While that may have been a great strategy for species survival, it can cause problems in today’s world.

Let’s take a look at this in a business setting. In your role at work, if you’re asked to give a presentation to a group of investors, you couldn’t be blamed for a serious jolt of negativity and anxiety. You might picture yourself botching the presentation, followed by thoughts of losing your job, going bankrupt, losing your home and living under a bridge. All within seconds of being asked to give the presentation.

threats

That’s your primitive brain trying to protect you. “Public Speaking BAD!” So your mind automatically jumps to the worst possible scenario in an effort to keep you from harm. The thing is, in the grand scheme of things, the threat isn’t actually that big (it’s certainly not a deadly-saber-toothed-cat kind of threat.)

If you or someone on your team suffers from this catastrophic thinking trap, Best Case, Worst Case, Most Likely is a tool that can help calm the mind and put things into perspective. This technique, also known as Best Case, Worst Case, Most Likely, is from the book Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté.

Once you’ve identified the source of anxiety, it’s pretty straightforward –

– Write down all your worst-case beliefs about what could happen.

– Write down all the best-case scenarios you can think of.

– Arrive at the most likely outcome and take action.

This process is a skill that needs to be practiced. It may help to break it down into smaller steps to get the hang of it. You can do this on a sheet of paper, create a word processor table or use a spreadsheet to work through the steps.

Step 1: Identify The Issue

What’s the cause of the anxiety? In the above case, it’s being asked to give an important presentation, but it could be anything from starting work on a new project to a fear of airline travel. Write that at the top of the page.

Step 2: What Does Your Brain Say About This Issue?

Write down your fears of what will happen. In our example, you might write, “I’ll make a fool out of myself in front of our potential investors.”

Step 3: And Then What Happens?

Let your catastrophizing mind go for it. Write down what happens next and repeat until the very end (one item per line.) Really go for it and find the worst case scenario outcome. In this case it might go something like this:

  • “I’ll make a fool out of myself in front of our potential investors.”
  • and then what happens?
  • “We’ll lose out on the investment”
  • and then what happens?
  • “My boss will fire me.”
  • and then what happens?
  • “I won’t be able to pay my rent”
  • and then what happens?
  • “I’ll get evicted”
  • and then what happens?
  • “I’ll have to live on the street”
  • and then what happens?
  • “All my friends will abandon me and I’ll have to eat from dumpsters.”
  • and then what happens?
  • “I’ll get infected with some horrible disease and die.”

Step 4: Rate the Likelihood of Each Outcome

For each item on the list, write a percentage likelihood that that thing will actually happen. On a scale from 1 to 100, how likely is it that you will actually make a fool of yourself? Get fired? Die?

Step 5: Repeat Steps 2-4, But With Best Case Scenario Outcomes

Focus on what positive things could happen in this situation. Really go for it and come up with the most incredible possible outcome. Be unrealistically positive! Continuing with the example of giving a presentation for investors, it might look something like this:

  • “I’ll give the best presentation they’ve ever seen”
  • and then what happens?
  • I’ll get promoted.
  • and then what happens?
  • I’ll get a huge raise and a company car.
  • and then what happens?
  • I’ll have enough money to start that foundation I’ve always dreamed of.
  • and then what happens?
  • My foundation will fund medical research.
  • and then what happens?
  • Researchers will discover the cure for cancer and I’ll be hailed as a savior!

Step 6: Rate the likelihood of each of those outcomes.

This is just the same as step 4, but for all the positive possibilities.

Step 7:  Repeat steps 2-4, but with the Most Likely scenario outcomes.

Now that you’ve explored the worst and best that might happen, you’ll likely find that it’s much easier to imagine the most likely outcome. Take a few minutes to write down what probably will happen in your situation.

  • I’ll have to spend quite a bit of time preparing.
  • I’ll be really nervous.
  • I’ll do my best in giving the presentation.
  • It will go ok.
  • Even if I make a small mistake, I won’t make a fool our of myself.
  • I’ll get feedback and improve.

Step 8: Rate the likelihood of these most likely outcomes.

Just as in step 4, write a percentage likelihood that these most likely scenarios will actually happen. On a scale from 1 to 100, how likely is it that you will actually spend lots of time preparing? You’ll do your best? You’ll improve?

Step 9: Create a plan of action and get to work!

Now that you have a list of what’s most likely to occur, what can you do to have the best possible outcome? Draw up a plan of action and get busy!

I love this tool because it helps you put things in perspective

When first confronted by a scary situation, your mind does its best to warn you of the danger. Left unchecked, those warnings can quickly grow into catastrophic thinking.

Once you’ve taken time to explore the very worst, best and most likely outcomes of your situation, you’ll have much less anxiety about the situation and you focus your efforts on a practical approach to making the most of the situation.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear your story, so contact me with your thoughts.

5 Positive Psychology Hacks Can You Implement

Make sure you check out 5 Powerful Positive Psychology Hacks To Transform Your Team for some great techniques that you can use to help you create a more positive mindset, life, and business.

Positive Pyschology download

1Comment
  • Mark Wicken
    Posted at 13:37h, 23 February Reply

    Excellent process…it worked
    Thanks

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