When you’re feeling fear or anxiety, the most important action to take isn’t one that reduces anxiety. It’s the action that reduces your avoidance, and makes you face whatever it is you’re anxious about.
The next time you’re in a situation where you’re feeling a negative emotion, especially fear, takes these three steps. Over time, they will train the subconscious part of your brain to do it automatically, and they take less than a minute.
1. Think of the best possible outcome
This helps you determine what actions you need to take to reach that outcome. It helps you see what part of it is in your control, and what part might just come down to random chance.
Play to win. Being confident means that you expect things to go well in situations that are ambiguous. Visualize what the best possible scenario is, and do everything you need to do to make it a reality.
If you’re going after what you want in life, then forget everything else. That’s your right as a human. Forget what other people think. Forget the self-doubt in your head. The only thing that matters is that you’re taking the actions you care about. You don’t have to be anything else. You don’t have to please anyone. You don’t have to fit anyone else’s image of how they think you should be. Everything else is noise. Tune it out.
You have the right to do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of. You can approach girls, you can go to the gym and grunt, you can even wear a dress and sing on a bus if you want to. You don’t need approval to do anything. If someone judges you for doing the things you value in life, then forget them because you don’t need their approval.
2. Think of the worst possible outcome
Using a technique invented by Stoic philosophers, you should practice taking any situation to the logical extreme of the worst case scenario. This can be done either as a thought exercise or in writing. With any social fear, the worst case scenario is usually something you can handle. 99% of the time, your worst possible outcome results in a little bit of social discomfort, with the option to recover from it. It’s never life-threatening.
They laugh it off, they think you’re weird, whatever. You can handle it. They’re likely to forget it, but even if they don’t you can handle it. So if they think you’re weird, that’s something you can live with. I fail to see how this could end in catastrophe.
Here’s an example that comes up often in the Leverage Program: hitting on a girl in the day. What’s the absolute worst thing that can happen? The girl rejects you. It’s painful for a few seconds/minutes, but you laugh it off, she forgets you, and you both go back to your life as usual. Or other people see you and laugh, and you die. Oh wait, that won’t happen.
The absolute worst in any of these situations is a few minutes of social discomfort.
What if you get rejected by a girl then see her again in the future? You guessed it, a Leverage member has done that multiple times on the streets of Manhattan and it didn’t kill him. Maybe the police tell you to stop approaching girls, actually that’s happened multiple times to guys in the group at the Grove in LA, and they left and lived through it.
Even if you lost all your friends and became homeless, you could probably recover from it. And the worst possible outcome of approaching a girl is her not liking you, which is something any man can handle. Usually you’ll find that the worst possible outcome is something you could actually handle.
The anticipation of failure is always worse than actual failure.
3. Think of the most likely outcome
This helps you shape your behavior and decide how to move forward. Any situation in your life has multiple possible outcomes, with different chances of them happening. Instead of assuming that one of them will automatically happen, look at everything that’s possible and estimate the odds of each of them.
Have a plan for things going well and aim for that to happen. At the same time, know that if you don’t succeed, you can handle it. This is what true confidence is. Confidence is not a blind delusion that everything will go well; that’s just not how the world works. Confidence is knowing that you can to do what it takes to succeed, and when the inevitable setbacks occur, you can crush them and continue to move forward with the things you care about in life.