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The Surprisingly Uplifting Power of the Worst Case Scenario

You’ve set your heart on something, but you’re not letting yourself go and get it.

Maybe it’s setting out on your own as a freelancer. Maybe it’s asking out that cute guy or girl. Maybe it’s telling your boss that his services as a boss are no longer required.

You want to do it. You’ve been thinking about it for weeks (or months, or years). Maybe you’ve even told someone you trust about your idea.

But for some reason you’re not doing anything about it. You’re not taking any action. You’re not making any progress.

You’re afraid.

How do you deal with failure? There's a surprising upside to the worst case scenario happening with your freelance goals. This post will give you the tools to deal with it.

And the longer this goes on, the more you’ll start to get annoyed with yourself, the more you’ll doubt yourself, the more you’ll beat yourself up, and the less likely it is that you’ll ever start.

But what are you afraid of, really?

  • Are you afraid that your parents / friends / partner / dog won’t approve or understand?
  • Are you afraid that that guy or girl, or that potential client will turn you down?
  • Are you afraid that your emerging career as a freelancer will be such an epic failure that you’ll be financially ruined and cast out from society for all eternity?

Well, yeah, ok. Fair enough (maybe not the casting out from society for all eternity part, though). But what are you going to do about that?

2 things: The Worst Case Scenario and The Pre-Mortem

The Worst-Case Scenario

I want you to imagine you bite the bullet and go ahead with your idea. Awesome! Well done, you’re taking action. But wait… What’s happening? Now I want you to imagine the worst possible outcome.

Nope. Worse than that!

That’s better. That sounds pretty bad. I actually feel sorry for you.

Now. Here’s the uplifting part. What would you do, if that happened, so that you could be back on track and at least no worse off than you are now?

Think about it – what could you do? Is the worst case scenario really that bad?

Here’s an example:

Bob is a smart guy, adaptable and likeable. He’s taken a leap of faith and quit his job to branch out on his own as a freelancer. It takes him a while to get going and a couple of months into his freelance career he’s still not bringing in enough money. He’s slowly but surely going broke. He realises this, and before the worst case scenario even happens (being broke and homeless), he decides that freelancing maybe isn’t for him, so he starts proactively looking for a job (ah yes, the dreaded j-o-b). As it turns out, he and his old boss parted on good terms, and there’s some part-time work available. He starts immediately, and even has time to keep working on his freelance gig on the side.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

There are a ton of things you can do if the worst happens, and the fact is – it probably won’t. We’re not talking life and death here, anyway.

So start thinking- what’s the worst that could happen? And if that happened, what would I do to get myself out of that situation?

The Pre-Mortem

You’ve heard of a post-mortem, right? Post meaning “after” and mortem meaning “death”. It’s what happens when somebody dies for unexplained reasons, and we want to know why. He gets cut up and dissected and examined in every way to figure out why he’s no longer with us.

Same thing applies except pre means “before”.

“Hold on, Al.” you’re saying, “You can’t do a pre-mortem before something’s dead.”

Well, actually you can. And here’s how.

I want you to imagine your ideal day, say 5 years from now.

Where are you? What do you spend your day doing? Who do you work with?

All that good stuff.

And now, just like before, I want you to imagine that it was an epic failure. What “epic failure” means to you is a personal thing- it might mean you never even took action on your goal, or it might mean you did good, but you missed your target. Either way, the great news is, you can look back on that failure and identify what went wrong.

And now you know what went wrong, you can do something about it!

Here’s an example:

Stacey has aspirations of being a musician and singer and spreading her message of peace and love and unity across the world. At the moment she’s working in an administrative job, 9-5, 5 days a week. The job’s ok, but not what she loves. After work she sometimes jams with her brother (they’re a duo). Sometimes at the weekends they go to the beach and busk on the promenade. Every now and again they do a gig in a club or bar. She wants to get more likes on her Facebook page because she thinks that is a key to her success.

Stacey told me she wanted to be a full-time musician in 2 years, but she had been saying that for a year already.

I said “Imagine it’s 2 years from now, and you haven’t made your dream come true. You’re still doing your admin job. You’re not in the position you wanted to be with your music. You failed.” Then I asked her “Why do you think you failed?”

It didn’t take long for her to say “I probably didn’t do enough live gigs…” She paused… There was an uncomfortably long silence… Then she said “I’m going to start doing more gigs.”

When you imagine failing at reaching your goal, don’t focus on the failure, but find the reason behind it, and do something about it! One thing’s for sure, there is nothing worse than the bitter taste of regret- the regret you feel when you never even gave it a shot.

Al Clunnie Al Clunnie is a Lifestyle Design and Personal Development coach. He helps people take their “One day I’ll…” and make it happen by getting clear on their goals and the steps required to achieve them. When he isn’t coaching people, he’s probably out running, brewing some beer, walking his dogs or spending time with his newborn son. You can find out more, and request a free consultation at or by joining the friendly, inspiring and free community of like-minded people in The Momentum Group on Facebook.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • I love finding confidence boosting exercises like these! Really helpful, especially since I’m starting up a massive new project myself. Good work!

    • Al

      Thanks Beth, glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Love this post, Al. I’ve actually never thought about a pre-mortem, but that actually provides SO much motivation. I tend to be a procrastinator, and I think part of it is that I know the worst case scenario isn’t life-ending, so I lack a sense of urgency.

    However, imagining being one year from now and thinking “damn! I wish I had hustled more last year to achieve my goals” is terrible. Really helped to reinforce I need to break my habit 🙂

    • Al

      Thanks Caitlin,

      Sorry it took so long to get back to you! You can do it!

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