Catastrophizing. It’s a big word with even bigger consequences. But what is it, and how can you be sure you’re not falling into this trap like millions of salespeople around the world?
According to Psychology Today, catastrophizing has two parts: predicting a negative outcome to occur, and jumping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome does occur, it will be a catastrophe.
You probably know catastrophizing all too well. You know, when a prospect tells you to get lost (in so many words), and for the rest of the morning you’re completely fixated on it. You start thinking if your sales numbers are down, you’ll lose your job. And then you’ll lose your wife. And then you’ll be on the streets. etc. etc. Your worries take you down a deep, dark path.
Napoleon Hill famously said “Our thoughts have the tendency to clothe themselves in their physical equivalent.” Go ahead and read that again. Hill was basically saying that your thoughts will manifest into reality. To put it in Henry Ford’s words, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, either way you’re right.” Those are two quotes you should print out and put at your desk.
Today we’re going to dive into the different ways catastrophizing kills your productivity and sales, why you catastrophize in the first place, and positive habits and behaviors to adopt to break the vicious cycle. So let’s get into it.
How Catastrophizing Kills
When you catastrophize, you end up staring blurry-eyed at your lead list instead of cold calling those numbers. You might call this analysis paralysis, but in some ways it’s actually worse. Analysis paralysis tends to pass, but procrastination can become chronic and plague your sales career for years. It starts with slowed momentum, then it can turn into diminished productivity, and it only gets worse if you don’t nip it in the bud.
Now that you’re procrastinating, you better believe you’re giving yourself fewer sales opportunities. With fewer opportunities, every cold call or sales meeting is high stakes. You do NOT want this to be your reality. You’ll have a scarcity mindset, and you’ll become what I call a “sweaty-palm salesperson.” Everything you say or do will stem from fear. And trust me, prospects can smell the desperation a mile away.
Ironically, it’s catastrophizing that brings about catastrophe. If you hadn’t worried so much, things would have been just fine. But now it’s all-too-easy to get stuck in a downward spiral, or negative feedback loop. You procrastinate, get fewer opportunities, are fearful of losing your job, and you may even develop anxiety or depression if it goes unchecked for too long. Obviously, we don’t want any of that.
Track-jumping or Career Changes
I hate to see it, but this is common these days. I’ve seen talented salespeople pack up their desks and call it quits from one bad day at the office. Just one bad day! Look – it’s OK to take a step back and say “I screwed up,” or “That call went horrible.” It’s going to happen. But it’s data you can learn from! You won’t hit a home run at every at bat. (You won’t even get on base at every at bat). Whatever you do, don’t let yourself become so discouraged that you walk away from sales entirely. You’ll come to regret that decision. You got into sales for a reason, and tomorrow is a new day.
Why Do We Catastrophize?
Fear of Failure
The reason we catastrophize boils down to the fear of rejection or the fear of success. I’ll explain.
The fear of rejection haunts salespeople everywhere. And this fear isn’t all bad — in fact, a healthy level of fear in this area will give you that knife’s-edge you need to have during cold calls and demo/sales call. In small doses, this fear can help you perform at your peak. However, too much of it is a very bad thing.
So to overcome this fear, you have to reframe what rejection means in your mind. Instead of seeing rejection as the end of the world, you must reframe it for what it is — rejection is necessary waypoints on the route to success. Nobody, and I mean nobody, gets through life without rejection. It’s those who fail forward and keep pushing through that will enter the big leagues.
One practical thing you can do today is to decide how you will respond to rejection moving forward. Make this your standard response everytime someone hangs up on you, tells you no, or otherwise rejects you. Write this response down and memorize it. It’s not something you’ll tell your prospect — rather, it’s something you will tell yourself to remain positive. This will help you put rejection in context and keep a healthy association with it. Remember, rejection isn’t bad! “No’s” are just highway rest-stops on the way to the big city “Yesses.” So learn to love them, or at least not hate them.
Fear of Success
Believe it or not, a lot of people are subconsciously afraid of success. It might seem like self-sabotage at first glance, but it’s actually self-preservation. Here’s the thing — some folks get comfortable and complacent with the status quo, with mediocrity. Even if they’re living paycheck to paycheck, they know what to expect and their lifestyle fits like an old pair of sneakers. And subconsciously, they know that success will require new modes of living and being. They will have to stretch and grow into their new success. And there’s uncertainty in that.
This is why many men and women don’t leave the harbor for the open seas — it’s unchartered waters that will require much of them. So they prefer the safety and predictibility of the harbor, even if it means they never reach their true potential or achieve their wildest dreams. Look — you simply cannot let this become your reality. You must come to realize that life is bigger than you. If you hold yourself back due to a fear of success, you’re also holding back your family, your community, and an untold number of people who would aspire to live your legacy or follow in your footsteps.
Thankfully, when we don’t catastrophize and instead keep a healthy mindset and push the limits of our potential, we enter a positive feedback loop. We wake up earlier, eat healthy, exercise, make 100 calls a day instead of 50 calls, follow-up promptly with prospects, positively influence our peers, impress our managers. I wouldn’t even stop there. When we get into this positive feedback loop and stay engaged, we’ll get promotion after promotion, lead companies, own companies, and maybe one day find ourselves as head of industries. There’s absolutely no limit to our upward mobility.
But it starts with recognizing when you’re catastrophizing and snapping out of it. You can (and should!) replace those negative thoughts with encouraging thoughts that are in lock-step with the winning mindset I often write about. While you aren’t the Creator of your life, you have the ability to steer it with your thoughts, decisions, and actions. So it’s up to you — what does your destination look like? The mire of mediocrity, or the abundant horizons and treasures that you know are out there? The choice is yours.
Until next time…