Face the Negative Outcomes before you even have started

This article is one in a series of Growth Mindset Hacks. Today the eighth growth mindset hack: Face the Negative Outcomes before you even have started.

As said in this article, having a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, has numerous benefits for you. And the good news is that you too can develop a growth mindset. Read on, for today's growth mindset hack:


“You must prepare yourself by previous thinking out and by practicing how to act in any emergency or accident so that you will never be taken by surprise.”
- Robert Baden-Powell

By thinking upfront about all the possible negative outcomes your goal could have, you will never be taken by surprise. Whatever will happen when you are working on your goal, you will be prepared for it. This gives you an enormous feeling of control because you know upfront that you can handle everything. What, do you think, will be the impact of this on your level of confidence? It will boost your confidence level! Already the Roman emperors practiced negative visualization a lot. And not only to be well prepared for any future event, but also to be happier right here and right now, about their life.

There are two ways in which you can benefit from practicing negative visualization:

  • Practicing negative visualization gives you more perspective on where you stand right now with regards to your goal. This makes you happier about yourself in general and about your goal specifically.
  • Practicing negative visualization prepares you for every imaginable situation and consequence while working on your goal. This way you can be more confident because you already have proof for yourself that you will be able to manage it.

Both advantages of practicing negative visualization lead to more focus and determination on working on your goals and less procrastinating on them. Performing negative visualization will reduce your fear of failure, fear of success, and fear of the unknown. Instead, it will boost your confidence, productivity, success, and happiness.

Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III is called a hero because he managed to land US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan on January 15, 2009. This was shortly after the plane was disabled by striking a flock of geese immediately after takeoff. All 155 people aboard survived. According to Sully, however, it was all due to adherence to procedure why he could rescue the plane and of course the teamwork with his co-pilot Jeff Skiles. Both pilots had never flown before together. So, how did both manage to do precisely what they had to do when the plane started to crash? Well, long before they flew off while sitting on the runway in LaGuardia Airport, they went through a series of checks. They first introduced themselves to each other and then they walked through all kinds of tests. And … they also discussed what to do when a terrible disaster happens, like if the engines fail. Both pilots had 25 years of experience and never had any engine failed. And both probably expected that this would also never happen. They still went through their checks and because they did when the plane started to crash they had just three minutes to manage the situation and all chaos broke loose. But they then knew exactly what they needed to do and how they were dividing their tasks.

Both pilots used negative visualization as a standard procedure. This made them very resourceful when it was necessary the most. Without this type of visualization, they would probably not be equipped to land the plan on the Hudson River so well.

Negative visualization is the practice of using worst case scenario type of expectations and visualizations to see through the surface of only the positive side of things. Negative visualization allows you to put off your rose-colored glasses and see the world as it really is. It enables you to bulletproof yourself against things with a negative impact that might happen.

If you would only think positively, then you will be disappointed again and again by unexpected things which will happen. This will, of course, urge you to say yes to your procrastination temptation. So, instead, expect shit to happen, because it will. Nearly every situation ends differently than we have expected due to all kinds of unforeseeable things which will happen.

“Misfortune weighs most heavily on those who expect nothing but good fortune.”

- Seneca (Roman Senator and Stoic Philosopher)

Being an optimist means that you neglect the negative side of things which can bite you in the butt. Being a pessimist means that you ignore the positive side of things which makes you unhappy because you are always worrying about what could happen. The realist sees both sides and deals with them equally. Realism is much more a conscious act where optimism and pessimism are more subconsciously.
Applying negative visualization will make you more realistic and happier and better prepared for possible problems. Using positive visualization will make you more goal oriented.

So, don't compare yourself to other people. Only compare your situation to all the possible positive and negative outcomes that situation might have.

Here is how you perform negative visualization to be more confident, productive and successful:

  • Imagine that your project will fail spectacularly.
  • Visualize all the possible causes of that failure and write them down one by one.
  • Check the list and make sure that it is complete. Pay particular attention to all the psychological causes why your project might have failed.
  • Make sure that the list is specific and realistic.
  • Take your list of causes and rank each cause in such a way that you have the cause with the greatest impact and most likely threat on top and the cause with the least impact and least likely threat at the bottom.
  • Start with the top 3 causes and brainstorm solutions to prevent the cause of failure to happen.
  • Make an action plan for each of the solutions and make sure that these actions are written down explicitly enough, measurable, realistic and that they have a planning and a deadline
  • Visualize for each of the causes of failure how you will react appropriately in case they might occur.

By facing everything that can go wrong in case Murphy’s Law comes in action, you will be much better prepared and therefore much more productive and successful.


Develop your Growth Mindset by practicing Negative Visualization to reduce your fear of failure, fear of success, and fear of the unknown. Practicing Negative Visualization will boost your confidence, productivity, prosperity, and happiness.

And until you begin to see the change in your life, let me know in the comment box below, what is your view on this Growth Mindset Hack, and I'll try to support you with that.

And until we meet …

Live fully, be awesome,

Harry Heijligers

P.S. Please take a moment to share this article. Everyone should have the chance to change his mindset for the better, don’t you think?

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Harry Heijligers

Harry Heijligers has more than 25 years of experience as a Project Manager and more than 17 years of experience as an NLP Trainer. He has a Dutch blog about NLP here: HarryHeijligers.com. If you'd like to know about the Smart Leadership Hut, please check this: Smart Leadership Hut.