One night, in the middle of my sophomore year of college, I found myself standing on the edge of a bridge that was easily 80 feet above the water below. It was after midnight, and there was no moon. I couldn’t see the water, but I was told it was there. My hands were gripped tightly around a rope which had a loop tied at the bottom of it, my left foot placed inside. My roommate assured me this was all secure, because he’d “done this before”.
In just a few moments, I was supposed to put all my faith in my roommates knot tying abilities, that he had accurately judged the distance between the bridge and the water, and in the strength of the rope, jump off the edge of the bridge, and free fall until the tension of the rope kicked in, and swung me up in the opposite direction. I would then swing back and forth until I slowed down enough to push myself away from the rope, and fall into the water below.
As I prepared myself, (mentally, emotionally, spiritually) my roommate patted me on the back and said, “Don’t worry. What’s the worst that could happen?”
In my experience, it’s situations like these, that this question is most often asked. It’s not asked legitimately, but rather as a way to acknowledge the reality that things could easily go awry, and to bring a little levity to the situation.
Me: “I could die.”
My roommate: “Haha, yeah, maybe.”
However, I’d like to present the idea that this question can have some real value to your life, when asked legitimately and not in an attempt to make a joke about the potential life-ending activity you are about to participate in.
Fear is the most common reason that people don’t pursue something. Whether it’s weight loss, getting healthier, going after a dream job, quitting a crappy job, or asking for that first date.
We build up all the possible, and worst case, scenarios in our head, resulting in our inability to move forward. Because it doesn’t matter how realistic these possibilities are. It just matters that we’ve thought about them, and now they’re in our head.
Asking yourself the question, “What’s the worst that could happen?” is a great way to combat this paralyzing fear.
Chasing that dream job? Worst case scenario: you don’t get it. You continue where you are currently, and wait for another awesome opportunity.
Losing weight? Worst case scenario: you aren’t as successful as you had hoped, but you learn some valuable lessons that will make the next attempt easier, and make you more likely to be successful.
Asking for that first date? Worst case scenario: During the summer after your 8th grade year, your friend calls her to ask her out for you, but she laughs and says “no”. And then when summer is over and you go to 9th grade and see her every day you have to pretend like it never happened for the next four years. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.
If you ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen?”, and honestly answer it, it’s likely you’ll realize that the worst case scenario isn’t that bad after all. And that it’s probably worth the risk to give things an honest attempt. Because even if you’re faced with the “worst that could happen”, you’re stronger than it and you will be better equipped the next time around.
And, yes, I did jump. I didn’t die. And it was awesome.