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What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

If you can name and visualize your fears, they’re usually not as horrifying as you’ve imagined.

Here’s a trick to use whenever you’re confronted with a significant decision: Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen if things go wrong.

You might be surprised that the worst outcome can also bring along many beneficial side effects. Your company failed? Sure, you lost some money, but the lessons you learned are irreplaceable. Your girlfriend left you? Maybe now you know how to love.

This mind hack can be used to move somewhere you’ve never visited, change careers, start companies and anything else outside your comfort zone.

Some ways your worst outcome answer can help you:

It tells you when you should consider giving up

When you’ve hit your predetermined “worst outcome,” you can give yourself an easy out of the situation. When you look back at this part of your life, you don’t have to regret giving up because you went as far as you were originally (and objectively) prepared to.

It helps you realize you’re not ready

Is “the worst that can happen” too bad for you? Maybe you can delay acting on your decision for long enough to build up a cushion, whether it’s finances or courage you need. Once you’re in a situation where your worst outcome is painful but still tolerable, you can safely put your fear away and move forward confidently.

It acts as motivation

It’s easier to avoid your worst outcome when you know what it is. If you sense it’s approaching, you can try to change course.

To get you started, here are some common challenges and their likely worst outcomes:
- Calling or emailing someone to get their help: The worst is they don’t respond to you in the way you want, or at all.
- Moving somewhere you’ve always wanted to live: If it doesn’t work out, you move back.
- Starting a company: No one wants what you’re offering, you go back to your old job or take your new skills to a find a better one.

So what happens if your answer is too risky?

Let’s say you want to give a presentation at a conference and have determined the worst outcome would be for you to completely freeze up. There’s some small chance it could happen, but there are some good ways to mitigate it.

You could prepare to the point that you’ve almost memorized your material. Steve Jobs would spend weeks rehearsing his presentations, minimizing the risk of missteps. You could also give the presentation in front of as many people as you can gather, whether it’s your family, co-workers, or people you’ve imagined on your living room sofa. Anything to increase your confidence.

After that work, suddenly you’ve changed the equation and “the worst that can happen” is different than before. Maybe now it’s the A/V system doesn’t work or you get asked a question you aren’t fully prepared for.

Still having a hard time committing?

If you still can’t commit to choosing the path your considering, think about what the worst outcome is if you don’t make the change you’re thinking of.

If you’re OK with the worst outcome happening rather than living in regret, your mind is already made up: get moving!

Matthew Moore is a co-founder at Onepager - the simple site builder.

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