Avoiding The Trap Of “Catastrophic Thinking”

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“I pursue nowness. That’s what I do.”

Wang Deshun,

80 year old fashion runway model

 

I had set my phone alarm for 7:30 AM. I woke up at 8:00 AM confused – how could I have slept through the alarm? Hmm – my phone was dead. Dead as in it wouldn’t turn on even when I plugged it to a charger. I had an immediate sense of dread – yeah, not everything is backed-up. How could I be so stupid? Easy question to answer, but. . .

I had meetings to get to and no time until later in the afternoon to pop into a Sprint or Apple store. I was both annoyed and creeped out by the arbitrariness of my phone being dead. It was so random – the phone had been fine when I went to bed.

Much of daily life is a routine. And that routine is made up of so many small things we don’t think about, but count on – like a cell phone working. Remove any one of those small things in our routine and we can be thrown off balance.

Part of what it means to be confident is not being sidetracked when something breaks our routine. Being confident means regaining balance quickly and not losing sight of the big stuff.

Now, you need to know that I’m jotting these notes down at a Starbucks. I’m early for a meeting and since I’m without my phone I have nothing to do except jot ideas down on napkins!

I’m not a happy camper.

I find myself forced to look, observe and entertain myself with my thoughts – MY thoughts. My thoughts, though, are driving me crazy:

“What if they can’t fix my phone?”

“They won’t be able to fix my phone.”

“I’ll have to get a new phone – and that will cost money.”

“I’ll lose all my photos because I never back up regularly.”

“Wait! What about my contacts?”

“Ugh! I’m such a loser!”

Ah, the Curse of Catastrophic Thinking!

What I have to remind myself is that confident people refuse to succumb to wasting time on the disastrous, “what if’s.”

No one likes disruption from routine. A confident person, though, navigates it with equanimity because they know they will find a way to handle “it” – whatever “it” may be.

The night before I was watching a movie set in the late 1980’s. There were no cell phones. The only way to communicate when out in public was by finding a phone booth. I remember phone booths quite well but looking at the movie’s characters frantically searching for a phone booth reminded me just how isolated we were back then.

And so am I in this moment at Starbucks.

I can’t check email. I can’t call anyone. In fact, I am the only customer in Starbucks not looking at a cell phone!

All I can do is mindfully prepare for my meeting with my client Niall.

I’m reminded that a confident person is grounded in self and connected to people and the world beyond any technology.

In a recent interview, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the smash hit musical “Hamilton,” observed:

“I think a lot about trying to meet the moment as honestly as possible, because I don’t pretend to have any answers. In fact, I have infinitely more questions than answers. That’s all I control: I can control how I meet the world.”

Postscript:

A few days after jotting down the above thoughts, I ran into Danielle, the daughter of a friend of mine. Danielle’s youngest child, Declan, is nine months old. About three months ago Danielle noticed he wasn’t using his left hand and was overcompensating with his right hand. She took him to the pediatrician and so began the most hellish 24 hours of her life.

Making a long story way shorter, within the span of 24 hours, Danielle and her husband Ryan were told that Declan might have a brain tumor, then were told he might have cerebral palsy until finally they were informed Declan had had a stroke while in the womb. His left-side motor skills were impacted.

While the prognosis is good for the long haul, for Danielle and Ryan it has been an indescribable rollercoaster of emotions. And yet Danielle told me that she and Ryan are stronger now than at any point in their relationship. They know they and Declan will survive – and thrive.

They refuse to obsess over the “what if’s” and instead imagine the “what can be’s.”

Like all confident people, their attention is focused on how they can meet the world – in the “now” – with determination, stick-to-it-ness and inventiveness.

What about you? Are you living in the NOW?

 

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