One of the thinking traps that people have when it comes to stress and anxiety is called crystal balling or fortune telling but really it’s about all the “what if’s” that we have like: What if I don’t get into that University I wanted to get into? What if I never meet the right person? What if I get sick? What if that little thing on my arm is cancerous? What if I lose my job or I am made redundant? What if I can’t pay my rent or my mortgage?
There are so many of these “what if’s” that we tend to do and when seem to do them on quite a consistent basis. This is very automatic negative thinking that we all do from time to time but some of it can become very consuming and can definitely lead to high levels of stress and anxiety.
When I give people the chapter from from my book about the 10 thinking traps, they read the chapter and go: “Yeah, absolutely. I do the fortune-telling thing”. It’s right up there with mind-reading – which is when we try to imagine what other people are thinking about us or if they – for example – don’t respond to us on a text message and we worry about why and then find out that they dropped their phone in the toilet or something like that. So many times in life we are proven wrong about the worst case scenario that we picture in our minds and it really does cause us a lot of needless stress and worry.
One of my favorite definitions of anxiety is that it’s the interest you’re paying on a debt that you probably don’t owe! How many times in your life have you worried about something not working out and then it didn’t go as badly as you thought or it led you to a different direction in life that you couldn’t have predicted and which had a much better outcome for you in the end.
I know this has happened to me many times. When I left South Africa and had to leave all my family and friends behind I found myself struggling to find a job in London. It was after the tech boom of 2000-2001 and also after 9/11 and it was a very tough time to get work in London at that stage. I was doing all the “what if’s”: What if we run out of money? I was newly married and we didn’t arrive in London with much in savings. Three months of looking for work and we both still hadn’t found anything.
After a while we realised that all the “what if’s” weren’t helpful and we decided to trust that something would come up and sure enough it did. It was just some temporary work at the beginning but it led to more stable jobs after a few months.
Another example is when I was made redundant in 2008, back when I was still working in HR and at the time it seemed like the most terrible thing to happen. It was just as my second child was born and my ex-wife wasn’t working because she was on maternity leave. This happened during the GFC (global financial crisis) and I was doing plenty of what “what if’ing” back then let me tell you!
I had to manage my thoughts and implement what I am talking about here which is to learn to TRUST that it will work out without the anxiety and worrying. I really had to manage my mind and whilst it was extremely hard and seemed so unfair at the time – my life ended up going in a different direction.
I started to reflect on what I really wanted to do with my career and my life and realised I wasn’t doing what I had set out to do when I completed my psychology degrees because I wanted to help people – not fire them! And so, although being made redundant felt like one of the worst events and the worst possible timing in my life – it pushed me to move myself back into what I really wanted to do, which is counselling and helping people.
There is a big difference between “what if’ing” and proactive planning. Your brain does all that “what if’ing” because it is trying to protect you from what’s behind the next corner just in case there’s a tiger there. It’s part of your brain’s protection mechanism.
Trying to see every possible negative outcome or scenario will only cause you stress. At some point you just need to set your goals and then let go and trust that you will go in the right direction.
I hope you find the video helpful and if you would like a FREE CHAPTER from my book – Change your Life! on The Ten Thinking Traps – please click below:
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Remember: Never give up!
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