I know Wikipedia has a bad rap for misinformation, but I liked how its definition of anticipation contrasts the emotions it evokes:
Anticipation is an emotion involving pleasure or anxiety in considering or awaiting an expected event. Anticipatory emotions include fear, anxiety, hope and trust.
Suffering in advance
How often do you catastrophize?
I'm not sure how many of my friends and family know this, but I often catastrophize—even when I'm crossing the street, arguing with loved ones, or working on projects. For some reason, I tend to imagine myself:
- getting hit by a car in the most gruesome way (à la Final Destination, if you know what I mean) when I'm walking on the safest sidewalk
- being abandoned by a partner every time we argue, no matter how much love and care they've shown me in the past
- failing miserably on a task entrusted to me and losing my job in the process even though my boss and team mates are always supportive and rooting for me
I think about the worst thing that could happen, which either stops me on my tracks and hinders me from being productive or causes me to blow things out of proportion and act out of fear and anxiety, hurting people that matter to me in the process. Including me.
Honestly, I thought it was the only way to deal with uncertainty—think about the worst thing that could happen so that you won't be that disappointed when the shit actually hits the fan the way you thought it would. No surprises, right?
But this kind of anticipation stirs fear and anxiety. We inflict pain on ourselves by simply imagining worst-case scenarios, which may not even happen in real life. Worse, we tend to dwell on these negative narratives until they affect how we think, speak, and act, turning them into self-fulfilling prophecies.
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” — Seneca
Hopeful for the future
Anticipating with hope and trust is best achieved with the best-case scenario method.
Imagine the best possible outcome to motivate yourself to take the right steps toward it (instead of sulking and hiding from the world), while enjoying calm, peace, and positive feelings in the process.
Plus, there's the scientific concept of self-fulfilling prophecy at play: your belief about a future event will cause you to act a certain way, which, more often than not, turns the outcome you imagined into reality.
So if this is the case, why not visualize how things could go right instead of discouraging yourself with a million reasons why it won't work out?
The host in this podcast episode made a great case:
I'd rather spend six whole months thinking about the best-case scenario which propels me to give my best and take care of my well-being throughout the process—and then not get the outcome I was hoping for—than be miserable during all those six months and still not get what I was hoping for.
And as Tove Lo wrote in her song Timebomb:
What's the worst thing that could happen when the worst thing that could happen could be the best thing ever?
PS: Little anecdote. Back in July, I decluttered my closet and got rid of all the clothes I didn't like or wear anymore. I was left with only a few pieces, and I honestly didn't have much budget to replace the clothes I gave away. I didn't stress about it though. I felt like one way or another, I'd manage to get the clothes I need when I need them. Lo and behold, I found extra money here and there to splurge on some key pieces of clothes and started receiving brand new and pre-loved clothes from friends and family too (which amazingly are very similar to the ones I wanted to buy). Just saying. Don't be scared of making space for new things in your life—anticipate better things to come your way. ✨