Telling myself positive things has rarely motivated me to take action.
What I prefer is worst case scenario thinking.
Here’s what I mean (and how it works).
When I identify a goal – a desire – I have a brief moment of excitement and then within a day or so the next thing that pops up is FEAR.
My mind starts going to all the reasons that I shouldn’t do it and why it won’t work (now isn’t the right time, it’s too expensive, I’m not ready, people will think I’m crazy, etc…)
Positive thinking tells us to ignore the fear and move forward anyways. But this doesn’t actually get rid of the fear – and if anything the fear can get bigger the longer we try to ignore it!
The truth is, if my fear is too big I won’t take action. I get stuck.
So I started doing an experiment a few years ago – instead of trying to ignore or ‘positive think’ my way out of the fear I decided to do the opposite.
To dive right into it and look my fear in the eye.
First I ask myself – what is the worst thing that could happen here? The worse case scenario.
The key is to get specific. It’s not enough to say “I’m afraid it won’t work for me”… it has to be something that truly shakes you to the core.
“I’m afraid that I won’t make enough money and will lose my house.”
“I’m afraid that my spouse will leave me because I spent all of our savings.”
“I’m afraid that my family will disapprove of what I’m doing and ridicule me at thanksgiving dinner.”
You may have more than one thing on your list – the more the merrier (or should I say scarier?) ?
Once I can see – and FEEL – my fear then I ask myself:
What would I do if this worse case scenario came true?
How would I handle it? And can I handle it if that was to happen?
There are usually a few of things that happen at this point.
First, when we work through how we would handle the fear then the fear loses its power over us. It’s no longer this ambiguous monster lurking in the closet. It’s now a problem that has a solution ‘ready at hand’ if needed.
I can literally feel the fear melt away at this moment because I know I can handle whatever it might bring.
Second, we often see the absurdity of our fears and how unlikely they are!
Your spouse might be upset with you but it’s unlikely he would leave. You may lose some money but it’s doubtful you would have to sell your house. Your family may make some sly remarks at dinner but you can deal with that.
Third, seeing the worse case scenario can often light a fire to not let it come true! I contribute much of my success to making a decision that my worse case scenario was not an option. That I would do whatever it took to make sure it wouldn’t happen.
Look the fear in the eye. Feel it. Dive into it. And consider how you would handle it.
This simple process shows you how powerful you really are. It frees you up to take action without the burden of worry and fear always one step behind.
Tim Ferris has a similar process to this called Fear Setting that he outlines in a recent TED talk video (you can find it here on YouTube).
I’m curious what you do to deal with fear when it comes up? What works for you?