Three Signs You Have CSFFT Syndrome (and What To Do About It If You Do)

In Chronicles of a CEO by Rebecca Liston


Let’s face it. Sometimes running your own company can be the single best thing in the world…and at other times? Not so much.

Not everyone you talk to in business will admit it, but I’ve no problem confessing what I know to be true: sometimes I have found myself suffering from CSFFT Syndrome. 

Never heard of it? Really? Well because I like nothing better than to shed some light on these rather rare and spectacular “disorders,” let me share with you what I know about CSFFT Syndrome.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms…see if you recognize any of them:

1. The discovery that you are, indeed, procrastinating. A lot. Procrastinating looks different for each of us. Sometimes it is simply that we were “researching” our target market on Facebook and “somehow” ended up engaged in a long debate with our cousin about whether or not Grandma put oats in her chocolate chip cookies. Other times we may find ourselves filling our calendars with meeting after meeting while that pile of paperwork grows and grows on the corner of the desk. And some times procrastination can sound like this: “I’m too busy to do that.” Which really means: “I just don’t want to do that.” Procrastination is not our friend. And it is a classic symptom of something “bigger” going on.

2. The feeling that there may actually be a live hamster running in a wheel lodged in your brain. That “go-go-go” racing mind that really just spins in circles is a tantalizing and addictive (yes, really it is addictive…it’s true!) falsehood that leads us to believe we are getting “somewhere,” that we are doing “something.” We can go home at the end of the day and say, “Wow, that was a really busy day!” because our brains WERE busy. But this is a dangerous sign, my friends, of something deeper at work.

3. The inability to make a decision for fear that it is the “wrong one.” Oh yeah, come on, admit it. You’ve lived this one! We all have! When faced with a choice, you deliberate and ponder until the cows come home and when pressed to choose, you find yourself either shouting or crying: “But what if that’s the wrong move?!?!” And even after you make that choice (because you had to…the deadline came…) you always wonder if it was the “right” choice…and may even change your mind a dozen more times and drive the entire team crazy with your indecision! This, too, is a sign that something else is afoot. It’s classic CSFFT Syndrome!

These are but three of the most common signs of CSFFT Syndrome. (Full name: “Can’t See the Forest For the Trees” Syndrome.)

CSFFT Syndrome strikes often at the least opportune times — before a big merger, or right before that meeting with the Board to decide the future of the company, or just as you’re about to finalize your succession plan. Sometimes it even comes on at the beginning of the first growth spurt of your company, just as things are “finally” starting to get rolling.

CSFFT Syndrome is sneaky that way…finding us at our most vulnerable times, and taking hold and not letting us go without a fight.It makes us question ourselves, our motives, our next moves. It keeps us locked in “what if” scenarios, unable to breathe much less see a viable way out. And it causes us to panic…and make decisions not from a place of clarity, sound thought, and intuitive knowing, but from a place of fear and desperation (and those decisions are never, ever good…)

The great news is that there is a cure for CSFFT Syndrome AND it is preventable! So if you discover yourself suffering with it, here’s what to do:

1. Run (don’t walk) to your nearest trusted advisor. This is not your mom nor your best friend. This is someone who is objective. Unbiased. Without prejudice.  It is your mentor or your coach or your business consultant. Someone with whom you can simply sit and dump everything on the table, fearing no judgement, no blame, no shame, and no recriminations.You need to talk it out. Get everything out of your head — all the details that are bogging you down, the worries, the concerns, the fears. Lay it all out there — don’t hold anything back — and that in and of itself will lead to renewed clarity.

2. Organize your thoughts and feelings (preferably still with the help of your trusted advisor because this is a stage in which those symptoms you’ve been experiencing can take hold again and you may procrastinate even doing this step!)  Categorize things. Name them. Label them. This is precisely why the medical community likes to name “disorders.” Naming things makes them tangible and things that are tangible can be dealt with. Mysterious “things” under the bed or hiding in the closet have no names…they cannot be “fixed.” But things that we can name we can manage and even conquer. So name your fears. Call them what they are. And label your thoughts. Categorize them as “helpful” or “not so helpful” or “substantiated” or “BS.” (Because some of your thoughts will be valid and useful and they need to be kept in the forefront. My post “Follow The Yellow Brick Road”talks a bit more about this.)

3. Create an action plan and work it. Look at what you now have after categorizing and labeling your feelings and whirling thoughts. You now know (because you got some amazing support and advice) which of your thoughts and feelings are substantiated and helpful for moving you forward. Begin then to chart your course through the forest because now you can see the trees as separate and distinct from one another! You can see a path ahead! Take it one step at a time — this isn’t the time to rush forward in haste because for sure you’ll end up “sick” again with CSFFT Syndrome if you do! Use your compass, keep your map in hand, and slowly and steadily make your way towards your goals! You got this!

You see, CSFFT Syndrome is curable. These are the steps I myself have taken to get through it when it has struck me down full-force, and they are the steps I take my clients through as well.

Over the years of running my own businesses, I came to understand that not only was CSFFT Syndrom curable, it was actually preventable, and in the spirit of preventing further stress and chaos in my life and my work, I’ve always maintained a close working relationship with a trusted advisor. Having my coach in my “back pocket” has actually ensured that I don’t suffer with CSFFT Syndrome for if even one of the signs shows up, she’s quick to see the symptom present itself even if I cannot, so we can stop the progression in its tracks!

With that in mind, I highly recommend that you, too, seek the support of a trusted advisor! As a consultant and coach myself, this is the role that I fill for my clients — and what an honour that is! That said, I also know of many excellent coaches and I feel that every one of us needs to find the advisor that can best support us, so if I can be of any help myself or with a referral, be sure to reach out!

Big love,


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Rebecca Liston helps her clients predict, pivot, and compete in an increasingly complex global marketplace. Her clients quickly uncover the root of their challenges and know the actions to take to overcome them. A six-time nominee for the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Award, Rebecca combines business strategy with intuition, giving her clients the edge on forward-thinking, elegant answers to their most complicated problems. Her clients are entrepreneurs with CEO-mindsets and executives with entrepreneurial instincts. She is based in London, Ontario. What if you could get the answer to your biggest business challenge, in one sitting? Visit to find out more.