Use this exercise when you feel anxious, fearful or worried.
I’ve developed a pretty intimate relationship with fear over the course of my present work as a life and leadership coach and my past work in cybersecurity. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Fear is ALWAYS trying to help us out. It’s just not always good at analyzing data.
Fear can’t process Good News data because it has a lens that only looks for threats. Fear isn’t rational. In its world Bad News data rules. Good News data gets tossed.
Looking at the world like this makes it very hard for Fear to solve problems with positive solutions. Fear isn’t a good problem solver.
To make sure we solve problems in the best possible way, we can turn to the science of risk analysis. If fear knows our rational self has a better method, it can chill out and let us take over.
The science of risk analysis is a tried and true method to figure out what to do about potentially bad things happening. Its use has been proven effective in the insurance industry, cybersecurity, business continuity planning, and the military. It’s good stuff!
Here is how you do it:
Call Out the Fear
When fear is present, understand it’s trying to help you out. It may or may not have the correct information. It helps to identify what it thinks is the threat.
When you’re experiencing signs of stress, acknowledge fear is taking over and ask yourself, what am I afraid of?
Here are some examples:
- I’m immunocompromised, and I’m really afraid I’m going to get Coronavirus.
- With the recession, marketing is going to be the first department to go, and that means it time to panic.
- I’m worried about my husband. He has to go to work and the conditions feel unsafe.
- I loved my career in event planning, but a career in events is dangerous now that I’ve lost my job.
- I’m worried I’m going to lose my job with the economic downturn.
Identify the Worst Outcome
Q. What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen if that fear comes true?
If you find answering this question makes you more anxious, have a friend talk you through it. The point of this exercise is to help you reduce risk.
Assess the Level of Risk
Q. “What is the probability of that thing happening?
Understanding the probability of a bad thing happening is essential to creating a plan for what can be reasonably done about it. When managing risk, the rule is to put out an appropriate level of effort based on the relative level of risk.
For example, if you are in your 20s and don’t have additional risk factors, your COVID-19 risk is cut tenfold – so you don’t need to worry as much about threats to your life. However, if you aren’t careful you could transmit the disease to others who are at risk and that has a much larger
If your answer to the probability question is “I don’t know” you need more data.
Get the most well-rounded data set you can. Have a friend challenge your dataset to make sure it’s as solid as possible.
E. Identify how you can influence that probability
Write down a list 10 things you can do to increase the probability of that bad thing happening. Promise yourself you won’t do those. (E.g. I promise myself I will not lick freezer handles in grocery stores).
E. Identify a set of controls to reduce that probability
Write down a list of 10 things you can do to reduce the probability. Rank each one by ease of implementation and control impact (i.e. how effective that control will be). Choose a set of controls to play with over the next three days and re-evaluate.
Set Up a Check-In
Put a note on your calendar in a few days to do a check-in with fear. Accountability partners work great for this. If you have a trusted friend that is good at reasoning with fear, ask them to do the check-in with you.
You’ll be done with this exercise when you feel more in control and that more choices and options are available to you
You’ll know you’ve gotten to a good place with this exercise if you feel like more options are available to you and life seems more in control.