Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Question expectations

Last Monday I wrote about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's book on surviving the grief of her husband's sudden death. In that same AARP The Magazine interview, she also addressed the topic of questioning expectations.

"Studies of 'affective forecasting'—our predictions of how we'll feel in the future—reveal that we often overestimate how long negative events will affect us. This was certainly true for me. Every time I tried to tell myself things would get better, a voice inside my head insisted they would not. It seemed clear that my children and I would never have another moment of pure joy again. Never. So, just as I had to banish 'sorry' from my vocabulary, I tried to eliminate 'never' and 'always' and replace them with 'sometimes' and 'lately.' 'I will always feel this awful' became 'I will sometimes feel this awful.' I also tried a cognitive behavioral therapy technique where you write down a belief that's causing you anguish and then disprove it. I wrote, 'I will never feel okay again.' Seeing those words forced me to realize that just that morning, someone had told a joke and I had laughed. If only for one minute, I'd already proven that sentence false."

This may sound simple, but it isn't. It is effective, however—and over time, you can train yourself to change your language and thus, change your negative thoughts into more realistic expectations. The extreme vocabulary becomes more tempered—and much closer to the truth.

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