The word anticipation usually connotes excitement and joy as in kids awaiting Santa’s arrival. But is this the reality? Do we typically anticipate good things in life?
The short answer is ‘no.’ Let’s figure out why this is true and, more importantly, how we can train our minds to anticipate good instead of problems and challenges.
Anticipating the worst
I’ve been consulting and coaching in a variety of disciplines for over three decades. I can tell you from experience that the vast majority of people anticipate the worst. Consequently, they often trap themselves into unwanted, unhappy situations.
Why do we do this? In part, it’s the way we’re wired. We’re wired to see the potential for worst-case scenarios so that we can protect ourselves from the consequences of missteps. However, this safety mechanism was never intended to become a trap…one of our own making in which we trap ourselves into being unhappy.
Now that we have a sense for why we anticipate the worst. Let’s see how we can use this tool more effectively.
Anticipation as a tool
As with any tool we must learn to use it properly. A hammer is not designed to convert a long piece of lumber into smaller pieces, that’s the function of a saw.
Similarly, while anticipating the worst is useful in helping us assess risks, it’s not the right tool for helping us move forward. All too often we focus so heavily on assessing risks that we fail to see ways of minimizing risks. This failure tips the scales in favor of the status quo…even when we’re not happy with the way things are.
The key to using anticipation correctly comes from retraining our minds to minimize the risks that our worst-case assessment create. We need to develop the habit of making anticipation a two-step process.
- Allow our natural worst-case assessment to function as it is designed to do.
- Assign our subconscious mind the task of finding ways to minimize the risks identified in step one.
It’s simple, but it requires frequent and consistent effort to get your mind in the habit of thinking this way.
When you find yourself anticipating the worst in whatever situation you’re facing, pause. Ask your subconscious mind “How can I minimize these risks so that I can enjoy what I desire?”
This is one of the tasks your subconscious mind is designed to perform…answering ‘how’ questions. Implicit in ‘how’ is the presumption that there is a solution. Again, from personal experience, I can tell you there is always a solution.
Use this two-step process of anticipating the worst, then anticipating ways of overcoming the risks associated with worst-case scenarios, and you’ll be able to move forward more quickly and with greater confidence.
For our kids
When your kids are anticipating the worst without considering ways to avoid the worst case, teach them this two-step process. Any time they fail to employ the two step process ask them “How can you minimize the downside? What can you do to achieve what you desire despite the potential risks you face?”
It’ll be one of the most valuable gifts you can give the kids in your life.
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your wisdom below.
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