I remember this day, in the university. I had returned from a lecture and had about two hours before the next lecture. I decided to take a nap since I was quite tired. I woke up three hours later and realized I was an hour late for that lecture and suddenly got angry with myself. I checked my phone; they had done a quiz and I had certainly exchanged some marks for sleep. I got even more angry with myself and begun to think: I’ve lost 5 marks now and I didn’t even do well in my previous test. The exam is also going to be difficult — definitely! I’ve not covered even half of the syllabus. How could I have slept?! Why did I even decide to lie down? It will affect my CWA (GPA in other systems), I can’t increase it when I keep missing classes and quizzes. If that happens, I may not finish with a first class then I won’t be happy, I won’t be proud, I won’t get the job I want! I’m known to be brilliant and now see what I’m doing!
Just Hush! Shush! Stop all this! You only missed one lecture and a few points!
The result? I got really upset with myself and the rest of my day was bad. It affected everything I did. My output was bad. And for what? Missing a class! Most of us wouldn’t realize this going on in our heads but it does happen! We keep hearing ourselves talking to us about how bad things would turn out and eventually it molds our mood for the day or even week depending on how great the effect was. What you just read about, is a good (or should I say bad) example of the Snowball effect.
Snowball effect defined
This is a concept that is analogous to how a snowball starts. It begins very small atop a snow hill and increases as it descends. It can increase so much that it becomes very deadly. The snowball effect can be positive or negative. It starts small and grows with time. It can be a thought, an action, a habit.
Imagine starting a small business with a capital. The business fetches you revenue, you grow the business with the revenue, and it gets bigger and fetches bigger revenue. And it keeps going (hopefully). Or, being afraid of making a mistake at work and thinking so much about avoiding it that it reduces your concentration, then you make a small mistake, then the fear becomes even greater till you mess up everything.
How to realize it.
I sometimes I ask people this question: What language do you speak in your head? (Note that most of these people are multilingual) and they mostly look at me with this clueless face. They now have to think about it and try to recollect. This shows how we mostly miss our thought process. We are unaware of what we say to ourselves. We just allow our subconscious mind to talk and talk and we just act. We don’t take a close look at what’s being said in our heads.
To realize this vicious cycle, we need to learn to listen to ourselves — our self talk. We need to do this as often as possible till we become aware of what is being said in our heads every time. This way, we can respond to the self talk with something realistic and yet positive. For instance, I could’ve just told myself: hey slow down, you’re a brilliant student. You’re doing great in your other courses, the ones you enjoy. Stop being too hard on yourself it was just one class. Because this is true and realistic, it would’ve broken the process.
You can’t lie
Notice how I keep talking saying true and realistic. You cannot lie to your subconscious mind. Don’t go making huge promises. Don’t say: don’t worry dude/ girl, you’re gonna be alright. I’ll learn 6 hours a day and pass all the remaining tests, exams etc. Straight A’s coming up!
I’m not saying you shouldn’t think positively. You can make a spiritual declaration by faith. That’s different. You can think positively that’s good. But don’t make promises that you know you can’t fulfill. You’ll only be more frustrated! Something true and realistic, no matter how little is enough to stop the rolling snowball. Lying to yourself will only hurt you more.
What if I have proof?
I hear someone asking, someone very intelligent asking, someone who can figure out what’s gonna happen in the next five years asking… what if everything I’m thinking is true? What if I’m not just over thinking? What if my fears are very well calculated?
Well… no matter how intelligent and analytical you are, no matter the data you have, no matter how well you can predict the future, Miracles do exist! 🙂
There are times when something unexpected happens and there’s no way you could’ve guessed it would happen. Sometimes it’s something bad, sometimes it’s something good. Such is life.
If you can’t solve it, why worry? If you can solve it, solve it and stop worrying. Over thinking isn’t a solution but a new [thread of] problem. Enjoy life! It’s one! 😀