Sometimes, thinking about the worst-case scenario helps put things in perspective

One of the words a child fears the most is probably “exam”, closely followed by “marks”. Growing up, I remember how exams would instill some sort of fear in myself and my friends. Different people took it in different ways, however. Some kids would fall to pieces right before an exam and indulge in extremely erratic behavior: sleepless nights, endless crying and refusal to talk to anyone. At the other extreme were those children who didn’t care too much about the exams, but everyone around them did, so they took them as something they just needed to get over with. And, across the spectrum, were children who had varying degrees of internal expectations set for themselves and were just trying to manage the best they could. 

This is in school, when we are children. When we go to college, we are almost adults. Even then, some people still exhibit the same strange behavior right before exams. But something changes. By now, most people know that exams are important, but not the end of the world. Where do I place myself in all this? Well, I guess as a child, I definitely cared much more about exams than I did in college. And, I think this is the case for most people. As children, we don’t know much of the world, and we think that exams / marks are the most important things ever. However, as we grow older, and start understanding more about our prospective careers, we start to understand how important or not exams are to us. 

Depending on the career we wish to go for, we start prioritizing subjects, and we start to understand what will really matter for us. Another thing which changes significantly as we move from a child to an adult is the ability to understand things in perspective. As children, we think in a limited way. “Doing badly in an exam is equated to being an unsuccessful adult.” Of course, society plays a meaty role in instilling this thought in children as well. However as we grow up, we think more rationally, we think of the bigger picture, and we start to think for ourselves. In the larger scheme of things, we know that a poor exam performance won’t really impact our future. 

Though we do grow more rational, I’ve seen that looking at the bigger picture is something that we frequently forget to do. I see people in a workplace environment, who still fall to pieces before a deadline. And, indulge in strange behavior, acting like lunatics, snapping at people around them. That one deadline assumes the most importance in their lives. That’s usually when things start going downhill. Whenever we give any one thing too much of importance in our life, it starts to overshadow other considerations. 

A good way to evaluate situations is to look at the “worst-case scenario”. What’s going to happen if we don’t meet the deadline? If we ask for some extra time? A slightly poor feedback at the end of the performance cycle? A slightly delayed promotion? Is it a matter of life and death? Mind you, all of the above are “worst-case scenarios.” In reality, a delayed deadline is probably going to impact absolutely nothing. But, to meet that deadline, if we start behaving like lunatics, that doesn’t help us too much. 

Think of the workaholic, who works like a maniac, slowly distances himself / herself from others, doesn’t indulge in exercise or hobbies. Over time, work is the only thing that’s going to be left for that person. Isn’t it much better if we never got to that stage at all? It’s only when we forget to look at the bigger picture that we have a very limited view of the world. Sometimes, we keep pushing out our vacations till the end of the year. Again look at the worst case scenario. If you take a long vacation, is your boss going to be angry? Definitely not. It could be of some inconvenience, but it can be planned around. If the vacation is going to make you very happy, and you’ll feel much better after it, then just do it!

Sometimes, we get really scared when we try for something new as well, for example, sitting for a job interview. Once again, thinking of the worst-case scenario helps. If you don’t do well, you’ll just be at the same place where you started. You have nothing to lose. Similar thought applies before starting something as simple as a yoga class. I know many people who don’t want to go for classes because they think they’ll look fat in yoga clothes, or people will laugh at them. So, they prefer to workout at home. Once again, think of the worse-case scenario. If someone does laugh at us, or thinks we look fat, does it really affect our lives? Not at all. Just forget that petty thought,and think of the bigger benefits you’re going to get out of an exercise class. 



One Comment Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice thoughts. Very practical and true.


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