Envision the “Best-Case” Scenario

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I’ve often wondered why – when faced with the prospect of professional or personal change – people often defer to the worst-case scenario or predominantly envision why something won’t work.

Now, while I don’t pretend to be an expert on all of humanity, I do believe that it is primarily a way to prevent ourselves from looking foolish.  There are few things in life more aversive than the idea that you didn’t think it through or were, in some way, naive about the potential downsides.  It seems as though we spend most (if not all) of our energy contemplating why something won’t work or envisioning the worst-case scenario, which really means we spend very little time contemplating why something will work or envisioning the best-case scenario.

The future, from where I sit, is really an illusion that we construct based upon our past experiences, successes, and failures.  Of course, some of those experiences are valid and do provide us with the necessary background to not repeat any mistakes we’ve made.  That said, we still can’t predict the future and don’t know for sure that something will or won’t work.

Think about it for a moment…do I not box myself in when I predict something won’t work? I mean, to predict failure, only to then try something and succeed would prove myself to be wrong…we don’t typically like that. However, to prove you were right you would have to try – and fail – at something that other people have succeeded at doing…we don’t typically like that either.  It’s a lose-lose scenario.

What if we spent an equal amount – or better yet more – energy contemplating the best-case scenario.  Since we can’t predict the future and don’t know for sure that something will/won’t work, why not develop a positive mindset of possibility and success.  Why not, at the very least, put yourself in the frame of mind that best reflects what it is that you actually want.  Predicting failure is negative; negative thoughts produce negative outcomes. Will it succeed or fail? Who knows, but envisioning the best-case scenario will at least create within you the kind of conditions you wish to produce.

6 thoughts on “Envision the “Best-Case” Scenario

  1. Your post has made me think about the wonderful world of risk management.

    I agree with you – however administrators are often forced (and expected) to think about the potential negatives.

    The danger is that we become paralyzed be fear and negativity – often at the expense of enriching student experiences!

    • Thanks Johnny. I agree, though the context of what I wrote was more about when you actually take the step to implement, change, or move in a direction. I agree that we do have to consider the potential outcomes, but I also agree that we become paralyzed by fear of the unknown. Another quote I recall hearing was, “I’ve had many troubles in my life, most of which have never happened.” We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to our potential success and, as you say, the potential enrichment of our students’ experiences. Thanks!

  2. ‘Paralysis by Analysis’…too often we get stuck wanting to make sure that a change will work out well before we are willing to attempt it. This usually grounds any initiative to a halt. When an organization shares this kind of mindset, it discourages others from proposing innovative ideas.

    On the other hand, when a staff works toward a culture that supports risk-taking and innovation, people are willing to volunteer new ideas and support one another in an attempt to make improvements. If each of does our best to approach things with a ‘best-case scenario’ mindset, we will likely be on our way to creating this positive, supportive culture.

    Great post!


  3. Yet another thoughtful post.

    When I read this I think of all the times procrastination comes into play when looking at a task to be done. I mention this only because I think sometimes the real reason for not getting going is worry about the bad things that may happen. Usually when a task is started it works out for the best.

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