I learned about a new word this week, catastrophizing. I was describing my plan to sell a rental house and how interest rates had doubled since we decided to sell. It felt that our timing was all wrong and we wouldn’t be able to find a buyer. Who would want to buy a house now? My good friend and expert coach Dave Stitt, responded it sounds like you are catastrophizing.

The worst possible outcome

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as ‘imagining the worst possible outcome of an action or event’. In many respects, this is exactly what I was doing. I would invest $10-20K to sell the house and not find a buyer. My usual approach is founded in optimism. In this case that might be there is a backlog of buyers. Portland is still cheaper than California and the house is priced in an affordable part of the market. Of course it will sell.

Coincidentally, Seth Godin wrote about catastrophizing as well this week. He had an excellent point. When faced with a serious problem, neither catastrophizing or optimism help. What we need is realism. It reminds me of one of the key responsibilities of a leader – to see the world the way it is. Not how we would like it to be.

We have to face tough issues

What Seth says is so important. We can’t afford to ignore issues or fret about them. Instead we need to identify and plan to explore our options. In my case, we are pricing the house slightly lower than our original plan. If it doesn’t sell above our floor price, we will list it for rent. If people can’t afford mortgage interest rates, there will be more people in the rental market. I now feel much more grounded about the situation and I am no longer catastrophizing. If it doesn’t sell, which is possible, we have a plan.

What are you worrying about and is it helping?