What is the Worst that Could Happen?

There is a technique in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy where you realistically analyze what could be the worst outcome of a decision or situation. You simply ask yourself what is the worst that could happen. This is a key tactic to practice because so often as humans we can catastrophize a situation/decision/result.

I am not even just talking about life and death quandaries like Churchill smoking a cigar agonizing over WW2 strategies.

This can happen with the most mundane of events such as not hearing back from a date (OMG she hates me!) to starting a business (OMG it’s going to fail and I’ll have to live in a van by the river!)

This can happen to the best and brightest of us.

We catastrophize as if we are in Pompeii watching the ash fall even the reality is that we just need to harden up and negotiate a raise with our boss.

I see so many people who spend their lives catastrophizing and end up stuck in situations that are worse than if they just took action.

If you are miserable in your job, it’s not the end of the world to start to look for another.

If you no longer want to be in your field, it’s not the end of the world to change careers.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, it’s not the end of the world to tell your spouse.

Sit and think about what actually (and realistically) is the worst that would happen. Confront the primal part of your brain still on the lookout for saber tooth tigers. Just because you feel fear, that doesn’t mean that it is real. Be logical and understand that most of our fears swirl around the idea of failure.

Failure isn’t your foe. Failure is a byproduct of actually living your life. If you never fail then that is a sign that you never tried. Failure isn’t the end. Most of my readers are educated people in the Western world with a lot going for them so I can safely assume that you can pick yourself up.

When I decided that I wanted to go into business for myself, I made a list of what would happen if I failed:

I would have to give up my own place and live with a relative like my sister.

I could have a business debt.

I’d feel humiliated since I made a big deal about being self-employed.

I would have to go back to working for someone else.

The list went on and even had some unrealistic scenarios, but I created a second list for each fear that centered around how bad each one really was and if there was a silver lining.

For example: If I did go broke and had to live with my sister then I would have lots of time with my nieces and nephew. My sister was cool with it because then she would have a live-in babysitter.

Note: I realize that its a blessing to have such a close family. I earnestly do enjoy those freaks [ 😉 ] so being able to live with them isn’t as much of a hardship as it might be for someone who doesn’t have such a cool family.

Then after I did my rebuttals/notes on each catastrophe, I wrote a few bullet points on how I could prevent that eventuality. I decided to not take out a loan for my business and do as much bootstrapping as I could.

A few of my worries were just my pride talking. It’s not a humiliation to go for your dreams. Its a sign of courage and a way to stave off regrets. And being self-employed has been a way for me to learn so many amazing skills around marketing, management, technology, etc. I can definitely find a new job with these new skills without a problem.

The worst that could happen for you might be something that you can’t tolerate. That is how I felt about a business loan so I did some adjustments in my plans to avoid it.

Then I made my peace with the fact that I could fail. If you move boldly, you’re bound to stumble.

Not every issue can be avoided, the world is chaotic, shit happens, society is unequal, life isn’t fair, etc. I can’t tell you that your experience will be like mine.

If you have kids or other responsibilities or limitations like societal marginalizations then you will have to be creative with finding your path to your dreams.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t live your life to its fullest potential. Once you face your fear and name it, you can build a strategy to overcome it or go around it. Just because life throws us barriers to our dreams that doesn’t mean that we need to become one ourselves.

Whenever you feel paralyzed by fear even as your heart and spirit are yearning to achieve a dream, greet that fear, thank it for protecting you, and use logic to defuse it.

What is the worst that could happen if you dug deep into your career/business/lifestyle/creative dreams and tried to achieve them?

You’ll probably find that the worst isn’t as bad as the regret you’ll feel for not giving your dream a go.

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