You couldn’t find your wallet and you panicked.
You missed your plane and thought it was the end of the world. You experienced what appeared to be a catastrophic event in the making. But that really bad thing you thought was going to happen never did.
Your wallet wasn’t stolen; you left it in the bathroom. The airline was able to book you on an alternative flight that actually got you where you were going 20 minutes sooner.
We’ve all experienced the catastrophe that wasn’t.
After our son got his driver’s license at sixteen he took his first solo trip to see a girl. He drove his Buick station wagon down the drive around 7:00 pm with strict conditions. Be home by midnight.
BY MIDNIGHT. 12 p.m. No later!
At 11:30 p.m. he called to say he was in deep conversation and would be home soon.
Midnight rolled around and no Daniel. 1:00 a.m., I was worried. Then, 2:00 a.m., I was getting really anxious. By 3:00 a.m. I had visions of his car, upside down in a creek, headlights on, Daniel severely injured. Or worse.
Finally, at 3:30 a.m., I was preparing to call the police and go looking for him; he pulled into the driveway. I didn’t know if I was more inclined to hug him or throttle him. Turned out he was having a nice conversation and lost track of time. We both survived his teen years, but the anxiety I experienced that night cut my life span short by 10 years, I’m sure.
I was convinced the worst catastrophic thing had happened. I had visions of the grief, the funeral, the sorrow.
And yet that’s not how it ended.
Why do we often go to the worst case scenario? Because when faced with a life-threatening situation, the emotional part of our brain takes charge and paints a really scary picture in our brain…..
It does that so that we’ll be compelled to take quick action.
Have you experienced this at work? Someone says or does something that threatens the status quo and the reaction is emotional, catastrophic-based and irrational. We default to that part of the brain that is specifically designed to help us fight our way out of danger.
Do you react or respond to the apparently catastrophic?
Here’s a little secret:
When really successful people are ambushed by those catastrophic events, they respond to the crisis rather than react to the crisis. They feel the same feelings as everyone else, they just don’t allow those feelings to be in the driver’s seat. They strive to remain calm and think through the situation and choose a course of action they think is the best.
They respond to their emotions rather than react to them.
How about you? Do you get triggered and find yourself reacting emotionally, which often leads to damaged relationships, and Really Bad Decisions (RBD’s)? Or do you catch yourself, step back, and consider your choices.
Take Action: Rehearse in your mind how you will respond to the unforeseen crises that will ambush you this week.
See yourself pausing to take a deep breath and considering what the best course of action might be.
Hear yourself speaking slowly and with composure. Anticipate catastrophes so when they ambush you you’ll be prepared.
You’ll be surprised how many of those catastrophic events will turn out to be, well, nothing.
I’d love to hear from you firstname.lastname@example.org
Encore Life Skills can help you make sense of emotions in the workplace. We’ll provide strategies for making those difficult decisions that can appear to have catastrophic consequences.