The sneaky side of "being realistic"

I was recently speaking with a client on the phone. She is in the US on a visa and was having troubles with the approval process. Worry had her all worked up – so we slowed down a bit with what was going on for her.

It’s easy to understand the situation could be complicated and challenging. However what was really causing her so much stress was that she kept thinking things like, what if she had to leave and could never come back? What if she had to quickly pack up all of her belongings and couldn’t say goodbye to everyone? What if she got into worse trouble?

After hearing her story, she ended with, “I know it’s probably not helpful to think about all that stuff, but I’m just trying to be realistic.” It was then I saw the trouble. 

I asked her, “is it possible that this will actually all turn out fine?” She said yes. I told her, “then you’re not being realistic. If you were being realistic, you would have to admit to yourself that you have absolutely no idea how this will go. That it’s just as likely it will turn out really well. That’s the reality. What you are focusing on is just one possible reality, the worst case scenario.”

I think we’ve all used the, “I’m just being realistic” excuse, but it’s time to call ourselves out. Being realistic means admitting that that no matter how hard you try, you cannot possibly predict the future (no really – studies show we’re really horrible at predicting our own future), therefore pretty much anything is possible. Good stuff, bad stuff, neutral stuff. 

I didn’t gloss over the fact that it is possible that things will not go the way she wants. And, I also reminded her that she is an incredibly resourceful human being. Should the worse case scenario play out, she would still be ok. But until she had all the facts, what she was really doing was making herself feel bad by focusing on all the bad stuff, then trying to make herself feel better by telling herself that was just “being realistic”. Our brains are so sneaky, aren’t they? 

I encourage you not to fall for that yourself the next time you’re “being realistic”.

Much love,

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Header image credit dan / freedigitalphotos.net