Catastrophizing and 4 Other “Frightful” Foes to Success

Frightful Foes to Success

Catastrophizing and 4 Other “Frightful” Foes to Success

Habits are powerful. We begin them because they give us some sort of payoff in the short term (e.g. relieve stress, get us out of a tight spot). Unfortunately, we often perpetuate a behavior even when it isn’t serving us well, largely because it has become comfortable and familiar. If you are guilt of any of the following proclivities, they aren’t gaining you any friends or supporters… now is the time to eliminate them.


Something goes wrong, and suddenly you see your whole world falling apart. You can’t think beyond the moment, and project gloom and doom ahead. The problem with catastrophizing (or seeing everything as a “catastrophe”) is that it is paralyzing. We make the problem so large that we feel incapable of addressing it.


If you do this… practice using fact-based self talk to get the issue in perspective. Yes, having your computer stolen might be extremely inconvenient and expensive, but it doesn’t mean your life has fallen apart. Break the problem down into the nuts and bolts of the situation, and then make a plan to deal with each one. For example, immediately file a police report, call your insurance carrier, identify intermediate computing options until you can get a new computer, and research replacement options. You may also need to contact customers or professors to come up with a plan recreating anything that was lost. Finally, you need to see if there are any new practices you need to undertake (e.g. backing up data, locking your computer…) to minimize chance of this event recurring.

Everyone is familiar with this one, but many of us still let it rage in our lives. Putting tasks off – particularly difficult/unpleasant ones – ONLY MAKES THE SITUATION WORSE.

If you do this… proactively stifle this tendency with a plan. Write down 1 or 2 steps you can do toward completing the task (no matter how small they may seem), and move these steps to the very top of your to do list. Even one step will release a lot of pressure and you will feel empowered to continue on further. Do not allow delaying tactics to get a foothold. Procrastination is a very fixable habit.

When stuck in a bad situation, complaining is a common way to vent. In the moment, it makes us feel better, especially if we get some others to join in. However, in the long run, being known as a complainer is a sure road to failure. Everyone is working hard, and no one wants to repeatedly listen to someone else’s gripes.

 If you do this… delineate between opportunities for change and undesirable situations which simply need to be accepted. If a situation is bad enough to make you miserable, consider what options you have to rectify it. There will always be parts of our jobs and lives that are not perfect, and that’s ok. We learn and grow through adversity. Most coworkers, employees and friends will respond more positively to a person who respectfully works toward positive change.

When things go awry, it is instinctual to try and place the blame on someone else. We may be embarrassed or don’t want to admit to a failure which could jeopardize our position. However, people who consistently lay blame on others are never popular and are rarely entrusted with anything of consequence.

If you do this… take a hard look in the mirror. Admitting fault or failure actually connotes strength. Most people are willing to forgive missteps, especially to those who choose humility. Confessing a downfall or weakness, particularly in conjunction with a plan to behave differently in the future, builds trust and respect.

We’ve all been there. We lose steam and want to give up. We tell ourselves it isn’t worth the energy and walk away from a difficult situation, often leaving someone else to pick up the pieces. Quitters are never respected.

If you do this… remember that most success in life comes simply from consistently showing up. Even if you don’t have the answers, coming to the table with an open heart, ideas, and a willingness to try will do more for your success than just about anything else.

On any given day, many of us fall victim to one of the “Frightful Five.” The key is to intentionally guard against letting them become defining patterns.

Submitted by Seana Turner, founder and President of The Seana Method.

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