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12 Sep

Raw data will help you stop hesitating

Datum: 2012-09-12 12:00

Have you ever post­poned doing some­thing since you feared that it would be unpleas­ant, that you would be crit­i­cized or that some­thing neg­a­tive would happen? 

You actu­al­ly want to do it (or rather want to have it done), but you are hes­i­tat­ing and post­pone doing it for anoth­er day, since you do not want to expe­ri­ence what you are afraid will happen. 

Things do not feel eas­i­er the next day, and you real­ize that pro­cras­ti­nat­ing was not what you needed. 

Have you also expe­ri­enced that once you have done the thing you dread­ed doing, things did not turn out as bad as you pre­dict­ed they would? 

The per­son you called was not angry with you and did not hang up the phone, it was not as much work as you had antic­i­pat­ed to begin with or it turned out to be quite fun and enjoy­able to give the lecture. 

Well, isn’t it so that things tend to not turn out as bad as we ini­tial­ly thought they would? 

Tools rather than terror

It would be easy to say just think pos­i­tive, take every chance you can to push your lim­its, or some­thing equal­ly perky. But think­ing like this or telling myself off for post­pon­ing has at least nev­er worked for me in sit­u­a­tions like these. 

I would not be refer­ring to myself as a struk­tör if I didn’t have a love for find­ing con­crete meth­ods, or even tools, to solv­ing dilem­mas such as these.

Because you see, if we have dif­fi­cul­ties remem­ber­ing that what we fear tends not to hap­pen, it would not be more than fair to our­selves that we clear­ly illus­trate the real­i­ty of things. 

Hence, prove your hes­i­tant self wrong with a lit­tle help of statistics. 

Do this

  1. Cre­ate a new Excel-sheet or some­thing equiv­a­lent to this.
  2. Let the first head­ing be Date”. When you notice that you are hes­i­tant and reluc­tant towards doing some­thing due to fear­ing it will result in some­thing unpleas­ant, write down what date you feel this. 
  3. Give the next col­umn the title What is it you need to do?”. In this col­umn you write what you need to do but are hes­i­tant towards, such as I am going to call per­son X and talk about Y.”
  4. In the third col­umn you set the head­ing What I fear will hap­pen is that…”. Here you then write down your fear, for exam­ple “… the per­son I call will be angry that I called and both­ered them, that I will per­haps even be yelled at, that I will have to be embar­rassed for even call­ing and that she will then hang up the phone.”
  5. Now just do what you are hes­i­tat­ing to do, regard­less of what you fear will be the con­se­quence of doing it. After all, you are curi­ous of what will hap­pen and you want to gain anoth­er experience. 
  6. When you are done, set the head­ing How did it go?” at the top of the fourth col­umn and write down what hap­pened. We had a rather pleas­ant con­ver­sa­tion and I got a meet­ing with her in three weeks.”
  7. Let the fifth col­umn have the title Were you right?” and sim­ply write Yes” or No” next to what you feared would happen. 
  8. Final­ly, cre­ate a sixth col­umn and set the head­ing If yes, can you live with it?”. It doesn’t need to be a com­plete dis­as­ter just because you hap­pened to be right this one time con­cern­ing what would happen. 
  9. Now save this Excel-sheet in an eas­i­ly avail­able loca­tion and give it a title you eas­i­ly will remem­ber, such as Fears.xlsx”.
  10. Con­tin­ue adding rows when­ev­er you fear some­thing neg­a­tive will hap­pen, do what you are reluc­tant to do and fill in the blanks on how it went. 
  11. Notice how many times you have been wrong in your pre­dic­tion of the out­come com­pared to the num­ber of times you were right. 
  12. If you now want to, you can cre­ate a fan­cy bar-graph when you have made note of a few instances when you went against your fear, so that you will have the truth clear­ly in print and so that you from now on need not take your fears and appre­hen­sions so seriously. 

Not very clairvoyant

If you are like me, you will be wrong far more often than you are right. 

When I had gath­ered nine­teen No” and only one Yes”, I stopped mak­ing note of my fears. I now have plen­ty of data to show myself that I am not very good at pre­dict­ing and fore­see­ing unpleas­ant experiences. 

When I today hes­i­tate to do some­thing due to fear­ing some neg­a­tive out­come, I know that my judg­ment in these mat­ters prob­a­bly isn’t to be trusted.

So, I do it any­way in spite of my hesitation. 

What is your way?

How do you man­age to do things you fear or feel hes­i­tant towards doing? Write a com­ment to pass your best tip on to others.