I’ve stumbled across a very useful technique for putting worrying life events into perspective. I’m told it’s a proven psychology method, although I don’t know who to credit. It’s simple and works like this – if you are terrified, concerned or slightly ruffled by a possibility, decide what the worst case scenario could be as an outcome. Then imagine how you’d cope in that case, and then work backwards from there until you feel comfortable with all of the possibilities from small to huge. We especially use this method when preparing crisis plans because it focuses people on what really matters on a sliding scale. The key to feeling calmer fast is to work backwards from scariest to mildest.
For example – I have to speak before a crowd of 200 people judging my expertise. The worst case scenario is I forget my material and feel humiliated. Okay – I know that won’t happen because I know my topic thoroughly, so realistically at worst I may forget some and feel silly. In which case, I’ll admit it and laugh. If the audience doesn’t like me for handling it that way then so be it. I can live with that.
By stepping myself backwards, coming down from feeling frightened to accepting of making mistakes, I reduce the scenario from life-threatening to tolerable, even affirming. It’s very different to imagining the optimal outcome and hyping myself up, which just ups the ante. No retreat and no surrender is not a suitable strategy for every battle. Any sized failure presents a learning opportunity if you choose to cope with it that way – looking backwards sometimes is better for appreciating the real-life scale of what you are facing.
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