As much as we might not want to do it, thinking about every possible negative outcome could be one of the most positive things we can do in this endeavor. Thinking about the firestarter that won’t fire start, the shotgun that goes click when we need a bang, or the right cross that lands perfectly on our opponent’s chin with no visible affect are not pleasant thoughts. However, having contingency plan upon contingency plan requires us to think of every possible negative, and plan a response. This form of mental gaming sets us up for a positive outcome as we’ve already considered every failure point. We can’t be surprised by something we’ve already planned to address should it show up. In this endeavor failing to plan is almost a guaranteed plan to fail. If it can go wrong it will. Mental gaming, the ‘what if’ game, allows to go through a process of mental rehearsal. There are many studies that show mental rehearsal decreases reaction time, and in this game time equals life so we’ll take all the time we can get. The only cost involved in mental rehearsal is time, and the payoff is eliminating failure so it’s to our benefit in every way to use the power of negative thinking.
“It turns out that the mental load of management is primarily around experiencing failure.
Actual failure, sure, but mostly potential failure. Imagining failure in advance. All the current things that could go wrong. And more important, the things you’re not doing that will be obvious oversights later. Our brains work overtime to cycle through these, to learn to see around corners, to have the guts to delegate without doing the work ourselves (even though that creates more imagined points of failure). Scan, touch, consider, analyze, repeat.” – Seth Godin
Top self protection trainer Mick Coup has talked and written quite a bit about the power of negative thinking. The book; “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking” by Julie Norem dives into this subject as well. I would highly recommend reading everything you can find by Mick, and Julie on this topic. Playing the ‘what if’ game is crucial to predicting, preparing for and/or preventing problems long before they become an issue. It would appear we should spend some time thinking negative to guarantee ourselves a positive outcome.