Don’t connect the dots forward

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, don’t connect the dots forward and imagine that the worst will happen to you soon.

This is a favorite human hobby: to conjure up worst-case scenarios and live in desperation and despondency. Consider this: Your project at work goes awry, results are poor and deadlines have been missed. Your boss calls you and gives you hell. On your drive back home, you review the conversation with your boss and fear you will lose your job. You get into your apartment and your spouse tells you that she has been having abdominal cramps. Your already embittered frame of mind now invites you to think pessimistically. You imagine she may be having the dreadful ‘C’ disease. As you plan to sleep, your worries magnify. What if I am asked to leave my job? What if my wife is diagnosed with cancer? How will we survive? You wake up in the throes of this negative thinking spiral and start work the next day; your anxiety further drives your performance into the ground. Your negative thinking will lead you to more crises during the day, week, quarter and onward. To flip your thinking switch and to break the negative spiral, you need to elevate your thinking.

And the only principle that works is this: simply don’t connect the dots forward. Your reprimand at work was isolated. Your wife’s cramps were not influenced by the work situation. And you are no doctor. This is the way to rise above and see things from a 30,000 ft-level. When you fly in a plane and look down at the ground, you will find tallest of structures looking like specks from the sky. Similarly, the gravest of problems are but pimples. They will appear and disappear. But if we don’t give them attention, they will not bother us. Only if you are anxious about them all the time will they seem like something grave and serious. Filmmaker Onir, a gay rights activist who wears his sexual orientation on his sleeve, was once accused of molestation by a wannabe male actor. In response, Onir had this to say: “If you have one car accident because someone else broke the traffic rules, you don’t stop driving. I realized that I can’t let one bad thing negate all the good things that have happened to me.”

In Life’s grand theater, things will sometimes happen that you least expected or wanted and when you are least prepared for them. Such is Life. Don’t try to connect the dots forward or interpret each event or imagine the worst. The worst seldom happens. So, just live. Just be!