The Worst Case Scenario: A Game I Like to Play With Fear

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” – James Stephens

There’s a game I like to play with fear. Let’s play it now – I call it “Worst Case Scenario”.

First, choose a Thing that’s holding you back. It’s probably a decision you’re trying to make or something you think you want or have to do. You need to have a difficult conversation, make a change, end something, or begin something – whatever it is, it feels risky and you’ve been avoiding it.

Next, imagine yourself doing The Thing. You must be specific. Picture the setting, what you’re wearing, who’s around. What are the sounds, smells, colours, and objects? What words are you saying, what physical actions are you doing?

Take time to visualize this.

Now, answer this question: “What’s the worst thing that happens?” In my experience, the answer will come quickly. Now the REAL game begins.

Ask yourself: “And then what?”

And-then-what yourself until no more ideas come up, and be sure to record them all. Write a list, make video of you saying them, or draw pictures of each one. The trick is to make all the possibilities concrete and specific. Then, just leave them there. Do something else. Go about your day.

In a few hours, or days, or next week, return to the list of “and-then-whats”. See how they feel now. For me, this practice has brought me to a point where I can often just ask myself the question, “What’s the worst thing that happens?” and the fear vanishes.

The thing about fear is, it’s ravenous. It’s big, ugly, and menacing. Its hunger crowds out anything else that might fit in our minds.

The Worst Case Scenario game lets you acknowledge the monster in the room without feeding it, and so it shrinks.

So now what?

Play the Worst Case Scenario game with a friend or co-worker. Ask the questions of each other and write or record each other’s Thing, worst-that-can-happen scenario, and list of and-then-whats.

There’s one ground rule: the only acceptable responses to “and-then-what” statements are:

  • “and then what?”
  • “what else?”
  • “tell me more.”

Once you’ve both finished, talk about what you discovered.

Progressive Tense Cards (1)


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