The Impending Doom Dodo - A Story of Anxiety Based Worry
Tim Urban is one of the creators of the “Wait but Why” blog (www.waitbutwhy.com), where he writes and illustrates blogs on some fascinating topics. He is very entertaining and insightful, and I would recommend anyone to check out his work.
I recently watched Tim’s Ted Talk in which he shows us what is inside the mind of a master procrastinator. He showcases how procrastinators are topically governed by a character called the instant gratification monkey who loves everything easy and fun. The monkey pushes the rational decision maker (the one that gets things done) to the side and takes control of your productivity. By doing this, the monkey sends you through crazy rabbit holes of uselessness (my monkey sent me to check out every summer festival line up this morning). Finally, Tim mentions the Panic Monster who is awaken by deadlines and the chance of total humiliation. Panic Monster scares the monkey, which in turn allows the rational decision maker to get back at the helm. Check it out: Ted Talk.
As I pondered on Tim’s reflections, I couldn’t help but take a journey to the center of my mind. Who is in there? Well, we defined that the monkey is there. I could also say that the rational decision maker is there as well (he is the one that gets this blog done every week). I see the panic monster from time to time. However, in my mind there is a constant character that Tim does not mention. The impending Doom Dodo. Powered by anxiety, this little guy is the one that floods my head with waterfalls of unrelenting negative thoughts that will lead to complete destruction of not only me, but of everything that I hold dear in my heart. Think of him as mixture of Debby Downer and Captain Harris from Police Academy.
I picked the Dodo because of the animated movie Ice Age (I have three kids, don’t judge me). These lovable birds are quick to tell the Ice Age gang that if they did not plan for the end of the world, well, then “DOOM ON YOU”. Here is the clip: Dodo
I constantly hear that in my head. Doom on you. Doom on you. For example. When I was thinking about quitting my job to look for different opportunities, the stupid Dodo started squawking: “Who are you to quit a high paying job? You will never find a job again. DOOM ON YOU! You are going to have to sell the house to support your family. Actually, you will need to sell the house to pay for child support because your wife will divorce you. Your Kids? Well, you might as well give up on them because they will not be able to go to college. That sweet boy of yours? Bagger at the grocery store, that’s his future. At least you will get to see him every time you go buy the past due avocados you can’t afford”. SHUT UP YOU OVER GROWN CHICKEN!!!
Now, I showcased a pretty extreme situation, quitting your job is no joke, but the Dodo appears no matter what. A client doesn’t re-sign. DOOM ON YOU. You are running late. DOOM ON YOU. You receive constructive feedback. DOOM ON YOU. No matter what the situation, that squawking is loud and clear. It permeates doubt, strengthens my imposter syndrome and sometimes paralyzes me all together. Why even try if my future is doom?
The Dodo draws its power from the uncertainty of the future. What is most annoying is that those of us that have an Impending Doom Dodo in our heads suffer and stress about things that might not even happen. It is exhausting. Think about all the things that you are currently worrying about that are REAL. Now add on 500 hypothetical situations that could or could not happen. Could you imagine having to worry about planning a trip to Cancun AND having to worry about losing your job if you get stuck at immigration and cannot come back in time? That’s what the Dodo brings to the party. You suffer in anticipation.
Unlike Tim’s Instant Gratification monkey, the Dodo cannot be scared away by the Panic Monster. That is because there is nothing that can determine what is going to happen. The only way to keep the Dodo at bay is to create a huge bridge in between you and his impending doom. I call this the “Present Reality Bridge”. This bridge is built by looking at facts and using them to build space between you and the Dodo. The bridge allows you to stay focused on your current situation and only suffer about the things that are real, and that you can control.
If the Dodo says that you will get fired because your review was less than stellar, then build a bridge based on the facts. What are you good at? What is your value? What could allow you to improve? How can you apply it? What has worked in the past? The more facts and examples you can find, the more construction materials you will have for your bridge.
It is not enough to gather your construction materials. In order to build a bridge, well, you need to build a bridge. That means it takes action. Work. Once you get those materials, start building. Take action. Decide where your future is headed. Build space between you and the bird.
Finally, adorn the bridge with what I call “Gratefulness Garnishes”. Think in terms of what you are grateful for instead of what impending doom could happen. The prettier that bridge becomes with things you are grateful for, the harder it will be for the Dodo to cross it.
Now that you are aware of the bird, and know how to keep him at bay, go about your business. Take it one step at a time. Everything will work out.
Now get out of my head already.
Andre Mello is a Business Coach and a sucker for great character anecdotes. He has been in Marketing and Leadership for over 17 years. If you would like to connect with Andre, please visit: www.wysecoaching.com.