Getting Prolific, Day 20: Reducing Creative Anxiety
How will you take action in the face of uncertainty?
When you’re scared of making a decision, the question you’re told to ask yourself is:
What’s the worst thing that can happen?
It’s quite helpful. However, if you really want take calculated risks in your life, then that’s only half of the inquiry. The second question is to wonder:
Can you easily live with the worst thing that can happen?
That’s the big reality check.
Key word there is, easily. Because if the potential negative outcome isn’t going to knock you out of the game for good, then it’s worth marching forward. Whether it’s something modest like emailing a potential client, something moderate like presenting new idea at an all team meeting, or something massive like moving your family across the country, you can reduce your experience of anxiety with some basic future casting.
Particularly in the face of uncertainty. When you’re not a hundred percent on a given decision, rather than getting paralyzed and doing nothing, chickening out and quitting, or acting hastily and choosing the wrong path, now you can proceed without complete information.
Trusting that even if things don’t work out, you’ll be able to handle the fallout.
Using this risk gauge might sound pessimistic, but it’s actually quite positive. Because you’re setting yourself up to thrive regardless of outcome. You are, as my doctor once explained to me about managing stress, raising your floor. Giving yourself the confidence to build your ceiling higher and higher, without the risk of your foundation crumbling.
It’s not denial or delusion or dishonesty, it’s just reality.
During my periods of unemployment, for example, this risk gauge saved me from certain death, emotionally speaking. Deciding that I could easily live with the worst thing that could happen, i.e., being rejected by people I didn’t even know, my job search suddenly became more relaxed, effective and enjoyable.
Now the point wasn’t to get a job, but to increase my ratio of favorable to unfavorable outcomes. It was a different thesis. One where things like risk and failure and success were all contextualized in the spirit of the long arc game of fulfillment.
And the cool part is, that mindset allowed me to be ready to exploit surprise gains.
That’s the thing about anxiety most people forget. Stress makes you lose sight of the potential for unexpected gains. The upsides easily escape your vision when you’re anxious.
And so, risk is not about mind over matter, it’s about using your mind to allow more things to matter, so that you can expose yourself to the best solution.
If you can easily live with the worst thing that can happen, then go, go, go!
How do you convince yourself to take action in the face of uncertainty?
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