Expect the Worst

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I’m a planner. I always have plans A through J, and I’m working on K to Z as we speak. Cece V

Expect the worst. Prepare for the worst. What’s the worst that can happen? Words I live by. Words that drive every single sleepless night and every decision I make.

In almost every interview there is that question. You know the one. It is either, “what’s one word you’d use to describe yourself?” Or “how would your coworkers describe you?” My answer? Tenacious. I’ve been through a lot in my thirty-two years and I just keep going. I’m a survivor. Throw me a fatigue skirt and cue Destiny’s Child! How does a tenacious person with anxiety stay grounded? Simple. Expect the worst, hope for the best.

Always expecting the worst or rather preparing for the worst is, at best, a defense mechanism; at worst, a dysfunctional coping mechanism or shield. It’s also a touch of perfectionism… or maybe a lot of perfectionism. I pride myself on my ability to “see around corners” and when I can’t I turn the situation over in my head a billion times until I can see all sides.

From a strengths perspective, this makes me one open-minded, analytically minded bad ass boss lady. I can conquer anything! From a real world perspective, it makes me anxious and guarded. After all, people, while usually easy to read, can be unpredictable.

In the world of social science, expecting the worst is called a lot of things. Pessimism, cynicism, foreboding joy, negative vibrations, and Upper Limit Problem to name a few. Whatever it’s called, it is used as a tool to protect the heart and psyche from potential pain and damage. However, this practice has the unfortunate side effect of limiting the amount of joy and success a person can experience. It also caps the amount of risks a person is willing to take. And, it dampens the ability to fully express oneself emotionally and creatively. Not to mention it promotes anxiety and worrying.

To a person like me, none of those sound too bad. These are calculated risks, risks that can be weighed and dissected until a reasonable conclusion is reached. Basically, you can think yourself out of some of the aforementioned barriers.

What you can’t think yourself out of are all the missed opportunities you cannot get back. Because while you were hesitating and thinking everything through, you missed an opportunity for growth. And possibly crazy fun…or a big failure with a worthwhile lesson.

So, my fellow planners, I have a new plan. Instead of planning for every variable in a scenario, plan for one or two and then breathe and let go. Let the universe have its way. Let the cards fall where they may. Just enjoy the experience.

Don’t frown at me. I’ve thought this through!

While we plan and fret, life is passing us by. No. I don’t believe in that statement. While we plan and fret we steadily lower the ceiling on the amount of joy, fun, experiences, and lessons we are able to receive. Some of us have fretted our way out of the job opportunity of a lifetime, or a chance to travel, or the chance for love. Anxiety and over-planning can become a box. The more anxiety you have, the more controlled you are, and the more intolerant you become of the unexpected. Your box becomes smaller and smaller. Until one day you become the curmudgeon in a condo with no friends, no family, and a globe sized list of regrets.

So, breathe. And dive in. Fun is waiting. Success is waiting. What isn’t waiting is time. Close your eyes. Think of that thing you love. That thing that makes your blood warm and your heart light. Now do it. Do it, not for the potential gain, but for the experience. Because when it’s all said and done, experience trumps success; it’s priceless. It’s also the thing you lose when you box yourself in, expect the worst, and plan too much.