Coping with unknown outcomes

Estimated 1 minute read · Monday, 1 August 2016

"I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened." by Mark Twain

As software developers we have a lot of things that build unnecessary stress and anxiety in each day of our profession - just to mention a few and in no particular order:

  • Collaborating with different types of personalities
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Estimating effort
  • Managing expectations
  • Choosing the right technologies
  • Working on legacy repositories
  • Fighting fires in production

In many cases we don't know what the outcome of a situation will be. Although this applies to all aspects of life, dealing with the unknown only amplifies the stresses that build.

A mentor introduced me to these three questions I could ask myself (and write down the answers to) when I find myself in a stressful situation where I can't predict the outcome:

  1. What do I think is the worst possible realistic outcome of the situation?
  2. How will I feel about it?
  3. What will I do about it?

I've seen the value of applying these questions both in my professional and personal capacity.

When I explore the absolute worst realistic outcome I can think of, I've given the situation deliberate thought and processed a way to deal with how I feel about it and how I can overcome it.

I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. ~ Mark Twain

It's actually rare that the worst outcome will materialize so just by thinking about it I am equipped to take on whatever comes my way without getting worked up about it.

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