Lucius Annaeus Seneca
The life of a modern man is full of fears, anxieties and uncertainty. Unfortunately, there are many preconditions for that. Of course, the fear is a healthy innate emotion, which we need for survival. Without it, the mammoths would have trampled and eaten our ancestors. And let it be XXI century today, the emotion did not change, remained with us as the atavism, which wanders from generation to generation and is inherited by right of succession. With the development of civilization, the humankind gets rid of some fears, but others appear…
We are afraid of sudden misfortunes, which can clobber on our shoulders: disease or death of the close friend, bodily injury, loss of reputation, financial crisis, the fact that children will grow incompetent, helpless, ill… If our child goes to school, to some study group, comes out into the yard to take a walk, we are afraid that something bad will happen to him. Exactly in the same way, we are nervous and anxious when someone from your family gets stuck at work, when parents, who live in other city, do not pick up the phone for long. We are afraid of the food, full of chemicals, the criminals in the streets. We are afraid that the state will rob and deceit us more rampantly, that we will loss a fragile illusion of freedom. We experience a large number of social fears, dictated by ambitions, uncertainty, low self-esteem: “I will fail”, “I will not get a new job”, “I will be fired” et cetera. We are afraid to be ordinary, unrealized, unappreciated or ignored by the society.
And if today we do not have any personal reasons to fear, the news from TV screens will give the creeps, bringing down the frightful shots of natural phenomena, manmade disasters and statistics of deaths not somewhere in other hemisphere, but in the immediate vicinity, hundred or fifty kilometers away from us. The news about how many Ukrainians, like us, suddenly have been left homeless, without hands, without legs, without sense to live and exist… Yes, it is our new horrible reality. And watching someone else’s sufferings close to us, we involuntary project them on ourselves and that is why we experience not only compassion, but also overwhelming feeling of discomfort, fear, panic, desire to run and quietly thank God that it happened not with our family… And to fear more, fear once again to think or say aloud something bad in order not to attract misfortune.
In fact, we often suffer from imagination, but not from reality. The fears of situations keep us in permanent “military operational readiness”, encourage uncertainty and indecisiveness. Turn into the slave of own phobias and fears. How to overcome the fear of life as such and not let the fear become the brake for everything? The psychologists and thinkers have many sensible pieces of advice in this respect. By the way, one of them seemed to be quite interesting.
The ancient Stoic philosophers – Aurelius Marc, Seneca, Epictetus – regularly did the exercises known as Premeditatio Malorum – “premeditation of malice”. The idea was to imagine negative things now, which can happen in the future. For example, what it feels like to lose job and become homeless or suffer from injury, be paralyzed, damage your reputation, lose the status in the society. The stoics considered that by fitting on the worst scenario, they can get rid of the fear to fail in future and take more effective measures on preventing negative situations. Such way of thinking is called as the inversion. The unusual and useful skill, which may be applied virtually in any sphere. The inversion is not the search for the good advice, but the search for anti-advice – something what we are missing and something we should avoid.
One of the effective methods of application of inversion is called Failure Premortem. Something like “premeditation of malice” for modern business. The operational principle is the following: choose the most important goal or project, on which you are working currently. Now move half year forward in thoughts and suppose that the project failed and you did not succeed in reaching the goal. Start analyzing how it happened, what went wrong? What mistakes did you make? What did not you do? What was it all a failure? This exercise is sometimes called in organizations “kill the company”, because the goal is to find the ways, going by which the company may fail.
The great thinkers, connoisseurs and innovators think both ahead and backwards. They consider the other side of things and do not fear to attract negative. In this issue, we decide to do just that.