“The way I look at things – if you focus on the worst case scenario and it happens, you’ve lived it twice. It sounds like Pollyana-ish tripe but I’m telling you – it works for me.”
–Michael J. Fox
Mark Twain said, “Many a horrible thing I have experienced in my life and some of them have actually happened.” We can create images in our minds about how things are, and none of them will be real. We tend to create things that don’t exist. We may create horrible things or awful scenarios that don’t exist in the real world, but our bodies respond as if these things do. Hence, Mark Twain’s saying, “I’ve experienced them, but they haven’t actually happened; some of them have, some of them have not.” Your body will respond to things that go on in your mind no matter what’s there. That seems pretty simple and easy to understand, right?
How does any of this affect our daily lives? We may be experiencing anxiety caused by some of this pessimistic thinking. This anxiety is caused by the things in our minds that are not real. Unfortunately, we often do not recognize the thoughts that are going on. We are only realizing the feelings of anxiety, and then say, “What’s going on?” We are not stepping back and saying, “Wait a minute, there is something going on mentally that’s causing this.” Remember that whatever happens in your mind, your body reacts to; we get so caught up in the feelings that we don’t recognize that we are actually creating the fear in our minds.
You can create bigger stories in your head, like “Oh my gosh, this horrible thing is going to happen to me. I’m going to die, I’ve got cancer, I’m going to be sick,” and so on. And guess what? Your body actually responds as if these things are happening. So you go through all the stress. Cortisol and adrenaline flood your body, and it’s as if it were actually happening, and you experience the stress. Our brains do this all of the time. Why? We’re always trying to prepare for the worst. But this way of thinking is not really preparing us, it’s just creating more stress in our body that we don’t need.
There are also the little things or comments that cause all of this negative thinking. For instance: “She gave this glance… she doesn’t want to talk to me… I have this belief system that says this is how they are going to feel about it… this is what I do for a living and I don’t feel good about it… I’ll make calls all day and nobody will be home… I see that I wasn’t cut out for this business.” You can tell yourself those stories, and lots more. How about some of the stories that say, “Oh my gosh, she’s not calling me back, it’s been three days and she hasn’t called me back… She must be thinking…” Worst case scenario is she wasn’t thinking that at all, but your brain tells you otherwise.
Here’s another example. You’ve been working on getting business from a woman for a long time and you finally meet. You get to her house, complete all of the paperwork, and you fill her order. Here you go, off and running. She tells you about all of the business she is going to create over the next couple of weeks and months. And you think, “Oh, I’ve finally found our next top producer. I’ve finally found someone who is going to work. I can’t wait. She is going to be doing this and this and this. I’ve been waiting so long to get her order and to get her to say yes to me, and now she has. This is incredible, oh how wonderful.” You feel so good about it that you turn your cell phone off on your way home and crank up your stereo. Here you are, singing loudly and having a blast, on your way home and thinking about all of the incredible things that are going to happen. But your bubble is about to burst. When you get home, your husband comes out and says, “Hey, why didn’t you answer your phone?” “Oh, I turned it off. I was just enjoying myself.” “Well, so and so just called and said don’t do anything until you talk to her first.”
What happens next? I know the best of you will say, “Okay, I’ll just pick up the phone and find out what’s going on.”So you call this person and the assistant answers. She says, “Sorry, but — is already gone for the weekend. She’s on a skiing trip with her family for the weekend and will be out of cell phone range. You can’t contact her, but make sure you get to her first thing Monday.” So, where does your brain go? Do you go to, “Oh no, what if this, what if that, what if she thinks this, what if she thinks that, oh my gosh, what is going on? She’s probably saying that she can’t do the business now because of this and this and this.” And you prepare yourself for the worst and your body experiences all kinds of negative things. You and your spouse go out to dinner that night, and you’ve got all this opportunity to talk about your business deals with all of these different people who are at the same dinner. But do you show up for them? No, because you are too worried about what is going to happen. So you prepare for the worst. Not only that, but you also don’t show up for your entire family for the entire weekend. You’re really not there for them at all because you are so worried about what is going on with your new business client. All weekend, you turn a molehill into a mountain. When you call that person back on Monday, she says, “I’m glad you called.” “I’m glad I called too, what’s going on, is everything alright?” “Oh yes, everything is fine, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t buy those concert tickets that we talked about for us and our husbands. You see, my husband has a meeting that weekend in Florida and won’t be back in time. So don’t buy those tickets.” And you go, “Phew, dodged that bullet!” Wait a second, there never really was a bullet to dodge; you never needed to dodge a bullet at all. Your brain went through all of that preparation of worst case scenario for no reason. But your brain says, “See, I prepared for the worst and look at what I got!”
And so we go out and prepare for the worst. We create straw stories that are not real. They exist only in our minds, but our body responds as if these stories are happening. Stop the madness, stop creating stories! Everyone will benefit.