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June 22, 2018

What’s the worst that can happen?

“It’s a huge step forward to realize that the worst thing to happen is never the event, but the event and losing your head.”
(Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way)


The simplest tool I know for combating a known fear is to ask the question, What’s the worst that can happen?


You’re facing a financial deficit, for instance, and you’re afraid you won’t be able to pay the bills. What’s the worst that can happen? Go ahead and take it to an extreme level.


“Well, we get so far in debt we have to sell one of our cars to make ends meet, I’ll have to take on some extra work, and we’ll eventually lose our house and have to move into some cheap rental.” Or, perhaps it’s this: “We’ll lose everything and have to declare bankruptcy, crushing our credit for at least 7 years, and we’ll have to move in with your mother.”


Okay, all of that would certainly stink. But two thoughts:
1. What are the odds that the worst will actually come to pass? Think about it—how many times in your life has the absolute worst come to fruition? Hardly ever, if at all.


2. Even if the worst did happen, that wouldn’t actually be the worst thing. The worst thing, as Holiday’s quote above reminds us, would be to go through all of that and lose yourself in the process. That means freaking out, cratering emotionally, and continually screaming at those closest to you.


Good thinking, good feeling, and good relating are certainly affected by our circumstances. But they are also the very best skills we can use to change those circumstances (and enjoy good relationships along the way).


Peace begins with pause,