Is life AWFUL? - be GRATEFUL! (and see things change!)

A very long time ago during a January Term at Macalester College when we students were studying War Theory (it was a great class, but hard to only focus on War for a whole month) a friend of mine, Tim Ramer, told me a very long jokeabout the fact there was nothing to worry about and that only two things can happen.  It was a funny, but a very true joke and it helped us all to refocus on the good after a depressing month.

Focusing on the Good was the exact opposite of what I learned from a talk by Matthias Horx on the Creative Age: he reminded us that we must not fall into the trap of Awful-ism.  I had not heard the word before, but the concept is familiar to me from my coaching training:  

Awfulizing is a term coined by psychologist Albert Ellis. It refers to an irrational and dramatic thought pattern, characterized by the tendency to overestimate the potential seriousness or negative consequences of events, situations, or perceived threats.

Where I have been trained it this kind of thinking called a cognitive error: 

“Awfulizing– Looking at things in a negative way. Some types of this error are:

1  Thinking that you can’t tolerate an unpleasant emotion or that you will go crazy or die if you experience one;

2  Thinking that a problem is more severe than it is; exaggerating how bad something is;

3  Thinking that only bad things will certainly happen;

This kind of cognitive bias includes overlooking or ignoring the positive, the advantages, benefits, or good points when you evaluate something (i.e. considering only the negatives, disadvantages, costs , detriments, or bad points.”

We MUST Avoid Awfulizing

To avoid this kind of cognitive error you can do many things to help and 

- one of the best is to scale a situation: 

On a scale of one to ten where one is not much at all and ten is it is going to kill you someone else, how bad is this situation or issue?

OR you could call my friend Tim and ask to hear the joke: “There is nothing to worry about; only two thing s can happen…”   

OR you could also start a board on Pintrest to alleviate your awfulizing thoughts.  Mine is called Fun and Funny.  

Whatever you do, the solution should be positive!


So, another way to deal with this thinking is to change the way you look at life by writing down the positives. 

Another talk I heard from my friend Renate Achatz was on how we should take a jar and write our reasons to be thankful down on pieces of paper and put them in that jar.


Whenever you focus on the good in your life, you raise the level of your gratitude and that, in turn, does you good and keeps you from awfulizing. Here are some benefits of gratitude:

·     Gratitude gives you hope and therefore, resilience

·     You are more likely to sleep better (three “thankfuls” every night before bed is a great pill to take)

·     You have hope and most likely a better image of yourself

·     You may focus on the external (not just me, me, me) and thus be effective in helping others because you have more EQ (eg, empathy and compassion)

WHAT TO DO:  In summary, why don’t you get out some paper, a pen (and a jar) and at least once a week write down three things for which you are grateful?  Or better yet at least one, and up to three things each day…  You may have to find yourself a gallon-sized pickle jar soon!

Finally, once a month go through the jar.  If you are a journal-er (and maybe even if you aren’t), write down what you have seen or learned from your time of re-reading your gratefulness papers. 

‘TIS the SEASON for Thankfulness, and it’s a solution to your awfulizing too much, and thus it’s a way to combat your cognitive distortions:  BE thankful.

If you want, you can tell me how it goes.

Have a great week,

Patricia Jehle