How to overcome fear – Step 4: Worst-Case

Evaluating the worst option available may be illuminating and transformative

The fourth step in the six-step technique to overcoming your fear is powerful. In this step, you can come to peace with your worst-case scenario, which is the showstopper for most of us.

Over lunch recently, the founder of a successful engineering firm shared the conversation she and her husband had when she was thinking about leaving her well-paying job and starting her own engineering firm.

Founder: “What’s our worst-case scenario?”

She continued. “If the firm doesn’t work out, the economy is in a recession, I can’t get a job, we lose our house and have to move us and the kids into my parents’ house.”

Her husband: “It would be crowded.”

Founder: “Yes. But we would be loved, have a roof over our heads and food on the table. And, I believe the probability of the worst-case actually happening is near zero.”

Her husband: “I believe in you and you have my full support.”

The firm, the founder and her family are all thriving!

In your process of overcoming fear, please remember that anxiety is normal. But having irrational fears that control you is destructive and self-limiting. Overcoming and mastering fear doesn’t mean you’re absent of it, it means you identified and understand your fears and you are in control.

Fear causes most of your frustration and stress, which is why identifying your fears and mastering them can help create inner peace and contentment. Fear can also cause, or at least be connected with the mental and emotional blocks that can limit your success.

The six-step process can help your overcome what we call the “big four fears”: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection and fear of selling.

Here are the six steps to master fear:

  1. Identify your fears.
  2. Embrace your fears rather than running from them.
  3. Disassociate with your fears; they aren’t you.
  4. Understand your worst-case scenario.
  5. Do a reality check, with the probability of your worst-case scenario coming true. (Notice that the founder of the engineering firm in the example did a reality check in conjunction with identifying and understanding her worst-case scenario.)
  6. Develop a fearless focus. With fear out of your way, focus on going after what you want.

Understanding at the deepest level what your worst-case scenario is and coming to peace with it is often transformative. Facing the worst thing you can imagine is sometimes not as bad as it seems. Below is an amazing story of a woman’s worst-case scenario that, not only wasn’t as bad as she first thought, it may have turned out to be her best-case scenario.

As a psychotherapist, she worked with an incredibly intelligent, charming woman – let’s call her Alice. Alice was a nurse who was afraid her verbally abusive husband was going to leave her for a younger woman from his office.

Here’s part of the conversation I had with Alice during her last session:

TC: “On a scale from 0 to 10, how distressing is the thought of your husband leaving you?”

Alice: “10.”

TC: “If your worst-case scenario came true and he left you, what would do?”

Alice: “I’d volunteer with Doctors Without Borders. This has been a dream of mine for years, but my husband has always been against it.”

When she realized she could live her dream, she broke into a smile and carried on about how much she wanted to volunteer with Doctors Without Borders.

We had a surprising ending to our session that day:

TC: “What’s your level of distress now about the possibility of your husband leaving you?”

Alice: “Zero!”

TC: “You aren’t thinking of leaving him, are you?”

She smiled and walked out the door; I never heard from Alice again.

A worst-case scenario doesn’t always look as good as Alice’s did to her, but it’s usually not as bad as we fear. Even if it’s death — which is the worst case for some athletes such as freestyle mogul skiers, downhill skiers and car racers during competitions — you must come to peace with the worst case if you want to be successful.

Categories: Management & Leadership