Friday, January 27, 2012

When in Danger, Worry, Doubt...

"When in danger, worry, doubt
Run in circlesscream and shout!"

As a nation, we are addicted to disaster.  More than knowledge of the latest stupid celebrity tricks, we crave stories of bad things happening across the street and around the world.   A time honored principle of journalism is "If it bleeds, it leads."  

Not only do we crave stories of bad things, we crave stories of the threat of bad things. 

We crave stores of danger. The headlines proclaim "Bus-sized asteroid narrowly misses Earth!" and we feel endangered.  "Experts predict major earthquake will rock the mid-west in the next 25 years" (Oh no! We're all going to die!  Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!) 

We crave stories that cause worry.  Hearing that the "Fed Chairman predicts unemployment to remain above 8% through 2013" worries us.  Will we remain employed?  "Medical costs outpace insurance reimbursement".  Will we be able to get the care we need when we need it? "Global economy shows signs of collapse." "Galloping hyperinflation on the way" and my personal favorite "Americans worried. No Longer Optimistic for the Future."  How will we continue to exist? Abandon hope, all ye who are stuck living here!

We crave stories that cause us to doubt.  Some candidate "dabbled in witchcraft". Another "once subscribed to a publication that could be described as racist."  A prominent person "was seen with a woman who was not his wife."  Is there no one with integrity and a pure record?  There isn't, but that doesn't stop us from expecting one.

Stories of danger, worry, and doubt appeal to us on an emotional level. And, if we react on an emotional level and succumb to the strong feelings they give rise to, we will panic and, in all likelihood, end up either running in circles, screaming and shouting or cowering inside a darkened room.  And we will make a terrible mess of things.

So, what's the alternative, other than burying our heads in the sand? How do we overcome the urge to panic in the face danger, worry, and doubt?  How do we replace raw emotion with a considered response? 

First, we need to identify the dangers and things that cause us worry or doubt and answer some questions.  

Is that which I fear a real threat to me? The Japanese Tsunami and subsequent radiation leak is real, but no immediate threat to me. I need not worry and can go about my business.

How likely is that which I fear?  In the event of a nuclear attack on our nation's capital, I can quite literally become toast.  However, I judge such an attack unlikely and can continue to live where I am and go about my business without worry.

Is there any way to prevent that which I fear?  What prudent measures can I take to prevent it?  I can't prevent weather related disasters, but I can do a lot to prevent a house fire.

If that which I fear comes to pass, what is the worst thing that can happen?  How do I plan to deal with it?  What do I do first? And what do I do next, and so forth?

In other words, "When in danger, worry, doubt, Have a plan and pull it out!"

What do you fear and worry about?

What is your plan to deal with it?