Books, Deep thoughts

Catastrophizing/ “Is it true?”& Plan B thinking

As I walked on the treadmill last night (looking for opportunities to up my step count AND somewhat frantically trying to finish my audiobook which expires TODAY and is on hold for other people i.e. not available for renew!!), I heard some really great insights. This section of the book is geared toward parents/ students, but the advice is universal!

(From current book The Self- Driven Child)

“Is it true?”

The author gives an example of a high school aged boy who suffers from anxiety surrounding his ACT scores, college admission and future in general. He wants to become an architect. As he prepares for the ACT (again) after already doing poorly once, he struggles mightily with nerves and stress, especially surrounding test taking.

He says that if he is taking a test and has trouble with a section, he has the following thoughts:

“I’ll never get good scores. I’ll never get into Penn. I’ll never become an architect.”

The author argues that he should ask the following questions, instead:

  • Is it true that if you don’t get one answer right, you won’t do well on that section?
  • Is it true that if you don’t do well on that section, you can’t get a good score?
  • Is it true that if you don’t get a good score now, you will NEVER get a good score?
  • Is it true that if you don’t get a good score, you can’t go to a good college?
  • Is it true that if you don’t go to a “good” college, you can’t become an architect?

Probably most of the answers above are actually “no”. He goes on to explain that a fantastic education can be had from many other institutions, not just Penn. You can also take the ACT again. Etc. etc.

I know I personally have a tendency to catastrophize, as he calls it, sometimes too, so I think this could be an excellent exercise to run through when those thoughts of impending doom sometimes come up. 😉 How REAL are the problems I might be imagining or worrying about? How TRUE are the things I might be telling myself?

Plan B Thinking

The author also talks about a similar example of a high school senior who is obsessed with getting in to Columbia University. It is creating a great deal of stress and anxiety for her.

While he doesn’t say we should teach kids to give up on their dreams, he does advocate for teaching them the idea of “Plan B Thinking”.

Basically, ask yourself the question:

What are some other things you can do if (x,y,z) doesn’t work out as you hope??

Learning to feel okay or even positive about a Plan B, or Plan C, can really help to ease anxiety.

In the case of this girl, they started talking about all of the great things about the University of Michigan, her back up school. A great campus. More relaxed atmosphere. Maybe even better chances of reaching her grad school dreams, as she might be able to achieve higher grades there. Etc.

I also really like this idea! I could see sitting down with a piece of paper and actually writing down….ok, if what I WANT to happen doesn’t happen, then what? What does Plan B look like? Is it really “so terrible”?

Realizing that there is rarely one single path to happiness or success is probably a very useful thing to teach our kids (and ourselves). 🙂

Hallelujah. I got out for a 20 minute walk yesterday afternoon in the sunshine! Felt so good.

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for TV remotes! Really glad I do not need to get up every time I want to adjust the TV settings. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Catastrophizing/ “Is it true?”& Plan B thinking”

  1. Glad you got out for a walk! It was still a bit too cold here to go out with Will but I might be able to go this afternoon. And this weekend will be beautiful with temps above 30!! Woo hoo!!

    Those are good patterns of thinking for all of us. I can also catastrophize. It’s not healthy at all! I am hoping our kids take after my husband. He worries way less and is more ‘go with the flow’ but has still been very successful!


  2. Definitely guilty of catastrophizing… yet I call it out in others! I get into what I call Eeyore mode, where I can’t see the positive in any situation. These are some really helpful tips – even if I am well past the college application stage of life. 😉


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