Mediation on our worst-cases is a very useful exercise – but there’s a key area of our lives we keep forgetting about.
Ever have someone say, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
How did it make you feel?
I actually find that giving time to the worst-case scenario is a very useful process. When you allow yourself to fully explore the possible downsides, they often seem less scary than they first appeared.
Humans scare easily. Sometimes in a “I saw a spider and now I need to change my pants” kind of way. Other times in a “I’m not buying into this market” kind of way.
And fair enough. That’s good evolutionary design. Truly fearless organisms don’t survive long.
(Remember the ideal is not to be without fear, but to be with our fears, courageous, holding them in our hearts and doing it anyway.)
And part of our fearful instincts is to assume the worst an iterate back.
So you see a cave. Your first thought is that there is probably a ferocious bear in there.
But then you talk yourself down. You think, “We’ll, it’s unlikely that they’ve put a bear in the Westfields Christmas installation.”
This process, of assuming the worst and then walking it back, keeps us out of a lot of trouble, by design.
The problem is that we don’t give enough energy to the walking it back part of the equation.
We assume the worst, we don’t really go into it, and so just end up assuming the worst.
“Some talking head on the TV said the market is about to collapse… and… he’s probably right… I guess.”
So it’s always worth going that extra mile and checking yourself – what really is the worst that can happen here?
More often than not, you’ll realise that the worst-case scenario is no where near as bad as you were imagining.
“You should totally try to kiss her? What’s the worst that could happen?”
“She might mock me on social media.”
“Would it be all that bad? Isn’t it worth the risk?”
It’s still something I do all the time with my property deals. Partly that’s about mapping out the likely parameters of returns (I like to make sure that my worst-case scenarios still leaves me in front) but it’s also about engaging with the fears than any deal brings up.
And they don’t leave you. How many deals have I done now? I’ve lost count. Yet every deal still puts a flutter in my stomach.
And it’s something I do with my students time and time again.
I say, what’s the worst that could happen?
And they blurt out, “I could go bankrupt!”
It’s actually hard to see how that could happen, but I say, “So what? Would it be all that bad. I’ve got a dozen millionaires in my stable who have started with less…”
And isn’t the alternative still worse? – sitting on your hands and slaving away in your job for another 20 years?
So my students learn to check themselves against the worst-case scenario. It becomes a habit.
But there’s still one worst case scenario that we almost seemed trained not to look at. Something that is so cloaked in fear, that we can barely even mention it, let alone give it any attention:
“What’s the worst that could happen if I let myself be free?”
I ask you – no, I implore you – to give yourself 5 minutes today to ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen if I truly let myself off the leash.
We grow up being told to be this way and that. We’re forced to believe that the world wants us in a particular way. There is a right and a wrong way of being.
… and using cutlery, and riding the bus, and ordering pizza, and talking to real estate agents and on and on it goes.
And so we live our lives constrained by fear. We are so afraid that we will say or do the wrong thing – be the wrong husband, offend the boss, upset the random stranger in the IGA…
And why? What are we actually afraid of?
What is it that is so terrible that we would deny our own instincts to keep our expression tightly throttled through ‘acceptable’?
I mean, seriously, go into it. What’s the worst that could happen?
At this point, you might think, “We’ll I might get locked up if a policeman catches me humping a post-box in public.”
And look, I know we’ve all thought about it, but would you really hump a postbox? Isn’t that an extremely unlikely outcome? Would your mind need to be totally reconfigured to think that that is a good idea?
When people think about that space where there are no shoulds, the freedom can seem scary. “I might do something crazy”
And you might, but you probably wouldn’t. Letting yourself be free doesn’t mean turning your back on the sense of ethics, justice and right and wrong you’ve spent a lifetime cultivating.
You would still do beautiful things. Probably more so.
So the worst-case scenario, to be realistic, needs to keep this in mind. The worst-case scenario is not humping post-boxes, or doing your late night shopping at Coles in a sequin g-string.
The worst-case scenario is that your sensitive friends might not like the new version of you. Your boss might decide he wants someone less assertive. Your partner might decide they feel safer with someone with less passion.
That could all happen. All of those stories would be hard… for a time.
But perhaps, you might actually be better off in the long run with people who support who you really are?
And isn’t it still better than the alternative – sitting on your hands and being not-you for the next 40 years?
Seriously. 5 minutes. Give it some thought.
How did you handle the fear of becoming someone new, someone more free?