And unfortunately school communicators are pretty good at it.
Catastrophizing, that is.
We have that inner spidey-sense.
You might not have thought about it this way before.
But we wouldn’t be worth out salt as PR leaders unless we could anticipate the worse that could happen in any situation and help plan accordingly.
Andy Molinsky, Ph.D says this instinct of ours isn’t always an advantage.
As a researcher into the psychology underpinning the way we approach our “comfort zones” and author of the book REACH, Molinsky says folks like us typically share this problem.
Let’s say you want to challenge yourself and do something well outside of your personal comfort zone.
This “dreaded” activity could be ballroom dancing, singing a solo on stage, or running your first marathon.
It doesn’t matter.
It’s looming… and you have to face it.
On one end of the spectrum, you know the result of the new experience is not likely to bring you accolades, awards, and instant success.
So using your inner “bad things can possibly happen” mindset, you’ll dwell on the other end of the spectrum… and this is what Dr. Molinsky calls “catastrophizing.”
And it’s your ability to catastrophize (AKA imagining the worse) that keeps you from truly expanding your comfort zone as much as you’d like.
To think you’re holding yourself back because you’re too dang good at anticipating possible negative scenarios.
So what to do?
Dr. Molinsky says we should focus our attention to the middle ground.
When we step outside of our comfort zones, we need to accept that we probably won’t win a trophy but neither will we be forced to contend with disaster.
There’s a middle ground – something far more likely to happen – and once we’re able to define this outcome in our minds we’ll have an easier time stretching our wings.
This isn’t easy.
It’s not in our DNA to seek out and clarify the middle ground.
It’s not who we are or what we do.
But this makes total sense to me, even though I have to get to work on this myself.
Unlike Dr. Molinsky’s other subjects, I’m perhaps too content with life muddling in the middle.
Since I start off everyday shaving and showering in the comfort of my bathroom with a podcast blaring away, I probably need the threat of a pending apocalypse to spark me into trying something new.
I also have to hope my predictable and timid ways aren’t highlighted in Chapter Three of Dr. Molinsky’s next book.
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