If you looked into my mind’s control room a few years ago, you’d find an overworked, adrenaline-fueled crew on high alert.
They operated under a relentless motto: “Imagine the worst, and you’ll never be disappointed.”
Under that motto, my life became a fortress of backup plans. I didn’t just have a Plan B. I had the entire alphabet covered.
Initially, I wore this hyper-vigilance like a badge of responsibility. I assumed that if I imagined all the potential pitfalls, I could protect myself from life’s uncertainties.
But this approach was deeply flawed.
By trying to avoid every potential pitfall, I realized that I wasn’t fully living—I was merely surviving in a state of constant avoidance. I found myself caught in a mode of preemptive suffering, bracing against storms that never arrived.
It was like holding an umbrella open all the time, safeguarding against the rain. But I also missed out on the warmth of the sun.
What’s more, my “always be prepared” approach didn’t actually protect me from disappointment or pain. Even with my umbrella up, life’s showers still caught me, arriving in ways and directions that I couldn’t foresee.
Worrying is a giant waste of your imagination.
A state of hyper-vigilance, like an overactive immune system, can cause more internal damage than the external problems it seeks to prevent. If you’re constantly in a fight-or-flight state, expecting a saber-toothed tiger to leap from the bushes, you can’t be creative and uncover your best insights. You can’t think about anything other than the perceived danger at hand.
Hyper-vigilance also produces a half-hearted approach to life. If you believe that a full commitment to anything—a project, a conversation, or a relationship—means a harder fall, you’ll always hold back.
In projects, you won’t fully invest, always leaving one foot out the door for a quick escape.
In conversations, you’ll censor your thoughts, afraid of being misinterpreted or judged.
Ironically, these attempts to protect yourself from problems can actually generate more problems. They erect barriers to genuine engagement, leaving you half-in, half-out of life—like someone nervously teetering on the edge of a diving board. That tentativeness makes missteps and misunderstandings more likely, not less.
In the end, every caterpillar that barricades itself in its chrysalis, fearing the outside world, misses out on becoming a butterfly.
So, yes, have a plan, but don’t build a bunker of worry.
Focus on adaptability rather than over-preparation.
Trust in your own resilience—recall those moments in your life when you faced unexpected challenges and triumphed.
You’ll often find that what you feared is far less harmful than the bunker you built against it.