Vail on purpose: Quit jumping to conclusions
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –What’s the difference between functional preparation and dysfunctional worrying? My client, Lisa, was in the midst of finding out.
As Lisa walked through the door for our coaching session, she looked nervous and worried.
“We took my son into urgent care yesterday because he was having extreme headaches,” Lisa began. “They ran some tests and did a CAT scan to diagnose what was causing his pain. In the time since he had woken up complaining until late last night, my mind went in a hundred directions, anticipating what might be causing this to happen. I’ve never considered myself the worried type, but I couldn’t help jumping to conclusions … most with really bad outcomes.”
“What was causing the headaches?” I asked.
“They said it was a sinus infection or allergies, but it didn’t make sense to me because he was feeling the pain in the back of his head,” she said. “They were confident in their diagnosis and gave me some things to monitor. He’s feeling better, but I couldn’t believe how my mind immediately jumped to something serious like cancer or a brain tumor.”
“It seems people can jump to ‘the worst’ outcome, especially when it comes to health issues,” I said. “We have all heard stories of what could happen. Does your mind seem to jump to the worst outcome frequently?” I asked.
“I am not usually a worrier. Most of the time I have faith that things work out the way they should,” Lisa explained. “Just recently, however, I jumped to the worst conclusion about my work. Three weeks ago, I submitted a proposal for a book idea. When I hadn’t heard back from them for two weeks, I started to question my idea. Had I made a mistake in sending it? I jumped to all kinds of crazy conclusions. It really threw me off.”
“If you could slow down the process, what’s happening in your mind when you jump to these conclusions?” I asked.
“I get impatient waiting to find out what will happen,” she explained. “It’s like playing dot-to-dot and I am mid-way through the puzzle. If I squint, I imagine what the completed picture will look like. I fill in the blanks and jump to the ending … or at least a possible ending. Then I worry about that particular ending, when it hasn’t even happened.”
“How do you feel when that happens and how often is your conclusion correct?” I ask.
“I feel relieved by knowing a potential outcome, but panicked by it at the same time,” Lisa said. “I’m usually wrong and I’ve expended a lot of energy worrying about it. It’s exhausting!”
“Knowing this, what are some ways you can avoid jumping to conclusions and diving into a state of worry?” I asked.
“It’s a matter of listing the facts – what I know to be true – and separating them from the made-up facts – or things I don’t really know. Just doing this would help a lot.”
We spent a few minutes making a list of list of “facts” and “fillers” for the two situations she had described.
“Even though I think drawing conclusions helps me to feel more in control and somehow eases my worrying, I realize now that it makes me more nervous,” Lisa said. “By slowing down and separating the facts from the fillers, it will help keep me from panicking unnecessarily.”
“What will be your warning sign to do the ‘fact-and-filler’ analysis?” I asked.
“When I think, ‘What if …’ or ‘I hope something doesn’t happen,’ that will be my clue to make a list of the facts and the fillers, and avoid having to worry about what might – but probably won’t – happen.”
Coaching Challenge: The next time you feel anxious or worried, take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. On the left, list the facts, or things you know right now. On the right side, list the fillers, or the things you may be making up.
With each thought you have on this situation, decide which side of the line it belongs. Then focus on the facts listed on the left side. This is what is real. The other side is made up and may not worth worrying about.
Sheri Fisher is a life coach who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado with her husband Tom and three sons. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. If you have topic suggestions, Sheri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information, visit: http://www.coachwithsheri.com.
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