How “Worst-Case-Scenario” Thinking Propels Me Forward

posted by Andrea | 12/13/2018

Due to the nature of my job (sharing my opinions for anyone on the internet), I get lots and lots and LOTS of questions via email, social media, and blog comments regarding various areas of home life.

Many of the questions are very straight-forward:

  • What brand is the shirt you were wearing in __________ picture?
  • Can you clarify step 3 in last week’s recipe?
  • How often do you clean/organize/wash/use _________ product you mentioned in yesterday’s post?
  • What are your/your kids’ favorite ___________ (cleaning products, toys, books, games, gift ideas, clothing, etc.)

I love getting emails and questions — and although it does take time for me to respond to them every day, it’s just one of the many things I choose to make time for as I enjoy interacting with readers.

However, I get many questions I cannot answer with 100% certainty — either because I personally haven’t tried it or experienced it, or because I simply don’t know everything (much to my dismay!)

A few examples: 

  • What do you think will happen if I swap water for broth in _________ recipe?
  • Do you think the recipe will work if I swapped _________ (random ingredient) for ________ (called-for ingredient)?
  • Do you think I can make _________ recipe in the slow cooker?
  • Do you think ________ organizing container would work for my project?
  • Do you think ________ (paint color or decor item) would look good in our house?
  • Do you think your homemade cleaner would work to clean ___________ (random item or area of their home)?
  • Do you think ____________ (planner, calendar, or other organizing product) would work for my family?
  • Do you think ________ is a good allowance/bedtime/schedule for my child?
  • Do you think it’s reasonable for our family to put ____________ (amount of money) into savings every month?
  • Do you think it would be more helpful for me to plan our meals by the week or by the month?
  • Do you think our family would like Culver’s? (yes, I get Culver’s questions regularly!)

And last, but certainly NOT least: 

Do you think I can freeze ___________? (I’ve gotten at least 2 freezer-related questions every single day since I shared this post 8 years ago!)

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I always smile when I get these emails — realizing these readers consider me enough of an “expert” on home-life that they would think to email ME with their questions!

I often respond to these questions with something like: 

Thanks so much for the email, for your questions, and for being a loyal blog reader!

I honestly don’t know if I can give you a straight “yes” or “no” answer, but if it were me, I’d probably do ___________.

That said, I often find it helpful to consider the “worst-case-scenario” when deciding on these types of things. For example, what is the absolute WORST thing that could happen if you tried ___________ (subbing ingredients, making a recipe in the slow cooker, trying a certain planner or organizing container, freezing a certain food, etc.).

If the “worst-case-scenario” isn’t all that bad (off-tasting food, over cooked food, returning the organizing container, or a little freezer burn) then I’d probably just give it a shot and hope for the best.

If it doesn’t work, for whatever reason, then you’ll have the answer to your question! 

Yes, I realize that’s sort of a cop-out answer for me, but it’s honestly how I personally rationalize, think through, and process so many decisions in my own life. 

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If I’m not sure how to do something or wonder what MIGHT happen, I usually do a quick Google or YouTube search, and then I just give it a try.

As long as I’m OK with the worst-case-scenario that could happen if I fail, then I can move forward with confidence that the end results really won’t be all that bad, no matter what happens.

Maybe our dinner doesn’t taste as flavorful as it could have, but now I know the answer to that cooking question.

Maybe my made-up recipe for healthier brownies didn’t work, so I “wasted” a few ingredients, but now I know the answer to that baking question.

Maybe I ended up buying and returning several different organizing products, but now I know what ones work (and don’t work) for my project.

Maybe I tried a new schedule or routine for our family and it caused the kids to have meltdowns, stay up too late, wake up in the middle of the night, and act whiny and crabby the next day. Not ideal, but now I know that it’s probably better to just stick to our old routine.

Maybe we end up tossing a few things from the freezer that didn’t defrost well, but now I know the answer to that freezer-cooking question.

And remember, these are all the WORST-case-scenarios! 

What if the BEST-case-scenario actually played out?

What if you liked your new recipe better than your old one?

What if your baked goods turned out better than ever before?

What if the slow cooker meal tasted exactly the same as the oven version and was so much easier?

What if your freezer food defrosted perfectly?

What if your new planner or organizational tool ended up being exactly what you needed?

What if your new routine produced happier children, less stressed adults, and a simpler home life for your family?

What if you actually met your savings goals and were able save up for a big purchase or fun vacation?

I know this thought-process doesn’t work for every single life question, BUT you might be surprised how often it helps to think through some of the questions we often find ourselves stressing or worrying about.

If you think through the worst-case-scenario and agree that it’s worth that “risk”, then you are free to move forward, knowing that even if whatever you are trying is a complete flop, you won’t really be much “worse-off” than you are now.

As an added bonus, you’ll now have the answer to your initial question!

If you sometimes (or regularly) feel paralyzed, or maybe just unsure about various kitchen, home, financial, family, work, or life matters, simply stop and consider what the absolute worst-case-scenario would be, and then decide if you can handle that. 

If so, move forward with confidence and just give it (whatever IT is) a try! 

Yup, that was easy!

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9 comments

  1. Nicky

    12/14/2018

    I was taught that for any decision – use your BRAIN, ie What are the potential Benefits, what are the potential Risks, are there any Alternatives, what does my Intuition/instinct tell me, what if I do Nothing? The answers maybe vary alot from person to person especially because of instinct. some of us are simply alot more risk averse. Its really useful when I get fazed by decisions minor or major.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes, use your BRAIN. Such revolutionary advice 🙂
    It’s amazing to me how many people don’t just stop and think before making a simple (or complex) decision!

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  2. Lori

    12/13/2018

    This goes great with my Enneagram 6 personality! Love the title, too.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lori!

    [Reply]

  3. JJ

    12/13/2018

    This is a great perspective! It could apply to most situations in life, too! Needed this–thank you!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes exactly — so applicable to many different situations!

    [Reply]

  4. Jen

    12/13/2018

    Yep! I tell my husband all the time “I don’t worry, I plan for the worst.” Then we’re always prepared! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    exactly! it might sound pessimistic — but for me, it’s just practical!

    [Reply]

    Christine Reply:

    Totally agree!

    [Reply]