What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Here are three suggestions to help you learn to accept the worst that can happen.

Sometimes, when we’re overloaded with work or dealing with a difficult client or otherwise in an uncomfortable situation, we can get really stressed thinking about the consequences we might face, and how horrible they would be.

We can often times envision the end of the world as we know it. We can actually make ourselves sick with worry and stress. We can drop the ball on other things that might actually be more important in the long run, because we’ve decided that this thing is the most important thing that could possibly happen to us.

I’ve learned something important about dealing with things I’m really concerned and stressed about. It is very simple, but it took me years to figure it out, even after I’d been asked this same question many times by other people trying to help me through stressful situations.

The question is, “What’s the worst that could happen?”


The key is, you have to answer this honestly, and you have to keep asking yourself what’s the worst that could happen.

Let’s say I am a management consultant, and one of my clients has asked me to do some statistical studies for him. I do have the ability to do the studies, but when I get started, I realize that what he’s asked is going to take longer to do, and require more work, than I expected. I’m willing to do the extra work. The problem, very simply, is that it’s going to take longer and I’m worried about my client’s reaction.

Let’s assume that I’m getting really stressed and worried about this, I’m neglecting other clients to get this work done, and I’m currently staying up all night to try to finish the job.

Let’s also assume that somewhere around 2 a.m., bleary-eyed, I think to ask myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

The worst, obviously, is that my client can fire me. What’s the worst that can happen then? I can have a decrease in my pay this month. I can have to find a new client. I can experience some heartburn over losing the client.

But when I really look at the worst that can happen, I see that it might not be so bad. I might get fired. Let’s spend a minute with that. I’m working very hard to please this client. The client refuses to be pleased by the extra work at no charge, focuses on the delay, and fires me. Hmm.

What I lose when I get fired is a difficult client who doesn’t seem to understand that even people who plan well can be delayed. What I gain is the opportunity to work with a reasonable client. I can’t currently seek out a more reasonable client, because I’m tied up with this client. So, the worst that can happen is I can get out from under someone I don’t enjoy working with anyway.

This is just an example. Your situation is always going to be different. But the thing is, if you can handle the worst that can happen, and if you can be reasonable about what that worst really is, you can always get beyond feeling stressed out and emotionally ragged over a situation like this or anything else you’re really freaked out about.

How can you learn to accept the worst that can happen?

  1. When you start feeling stressed, ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen?
  2. Look at both sides of the worst that can happen. If necessary, keep asking what’s the worst that can happen then?
  3. Figure out how to deal with the “real” worst that can happen.

Thanks to Life Insurance Lowdown for including this post in the Carnival of Life, Happiness, and Meaning, to Bootstrapper for featuring this post in the Carnival of Business and Entrepreneurship, and to E3 Success Systems for inclusion in the Carnival of Success Principles.

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