A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to get a shot. She didn’t want to go, so I resorted to bribery. The shot would hurt, but the promise of ice cream would make it okay (or so I thought). Once she saw the needle, she FREAKED out. It took several minutes to calm her down. Finally, the nurse administered the shot. The needle went into her arm, and it was over less than two seconds later. Fighting back the tears, she looked at me and said, “It wasn’t that bad.” The anticipation was harder than the experience.
How often do you reflect on an experience and think, “It wasn’t that bad”?
Whether it’s a shot in the arm or any tough time, anticipation can be overwhelming. Anticipation is an interesting emotion. It can be good or bad. It’s fun to visualize an upcoming trip. You imagine yourself lying on the beach sipping your favorite cocktail. You feel joy and excitement. However, anticipating a tough time creates angst and nervousness. You start “What if-ing” yourself into a tough spot. What if we lose our largest customer? What if our new product fails? What if I don’t get my bonus? This negativity can soon overwhelm you. Overwhelmed sellers rarely perform to their full potential.
Uncertainty exaggerates this tendency. Consider the uncertainty of our current world: war, geopolitical instability, rising interest rates, supply-chain disruption, the ongoing pandemic, and record-high inflation. This uncertainty fuels the anticipation of bad outcomes. Many sellers anxiously wonder, ‘Are we headed for another recession?’, or ‘Are supply chains going to stabilize?’, or ‘How will a rate hike impact my business?’ It’s exhausting to think like this. Remember, it may not be as bad as you think.
Take hope in knowing that even the most challenging times are temporary. Take comfort in knowing that the anticipation of tough times is often more painful than the tough time itself. Here are a few other ideas to help you manage the angst of anticipation.
Positively reframe the what-if question. What if you viewed outcomes more positively? Rather than imagining the worst outcome, imagine the best one. For example, suppose you are presenting to a large, highly-visible opportunity. You are preparing for an upcoming presentation. You might feel nervous and anxious. Rather than thinking, ‘What if I lose this opportunity?’ ask yourself, ‘What if I do win the business?’ It takes just as much energy to expect a positive outcome as it does a negative outcome. Why not focus on the positive and feel better?
Right-size your anticipation within the context of what matters. “You don’t need this sale.” That’s what my sales manager told me before a big presentation. He sensed my anxiety. I was in a terrible sales slump, and nothing was going my way. With every rejection, I put more pressure on myself to close the next deal. He further sensed my anxiety through my emotionally-charged response. I said, “Are you joking? You’ve seen my numbers. I have to get this sale.”
My boss responded, “No, you don’t. What’s the worst thing that will happen if you don’t get this sale?” I thought about his question. My sales manager continued, “If you lose the sale, you’re not going to get fired. Your wife is still going to love you. Your family will still love you. Your friends will still be your friends. In the grand scheme, this presentation doesn’t matter.”
I needed those words at that moment. My sales manager was right. After our conversation, I felt better. I felt more confident and less anxious. Right-size your anticipation against the backdrop of what matters.
“Don’t be afraid.” These words are simple and may not seem impactful until you consider the source. Don’t be afraid is the most repeated phrase in the greatest selling book ever. I think He is trying to tell us something. Since the beginning of time, there has been fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and destruction. In general, our lives are getting better with every generation. During challenging moments, take comfort in knowing that He is watching over you.
The anticipation of tomorrow impacts how you perform today. When you view the future more positively, you feel better about it today. The future is full of uncertainty but viewing it with a hope-filled heart provides relief. Imagine the best possible outcome, and work like crazy to make that happen. And if it doesn’t work out, you’ll soon be reflecting on that moment. And with the gift of hindsight, you’ll be able to say, “It wasn’t that bad.”