The Power of Three Other Possibilities

The Power of Three Other Possibilities

If you have ever experienced times of anxiety or stress, you will know that during these times, your thoughts can have a tendency to jump to the worst possible outcome. Rather than thinking about how well you’ll do during that presentation, or how efficiently you will manage to keep up with all your looming deadlines and emails, your mind does the opposite. You start to imagine you stumbling over your words; people bored with what you are saying; you not coping with all the expectations and drowning in your to-do list. Whatever you are worrying about, you will be thinking about the same few things over and over. Your thoughts ruminating in a negative loop that you can’t seem to turn off. Does this sound familiar? Would you say that this is helpful at these times or a hindrance to your emotional wellbeing?

Of course, this catastrophising and thinking of the worst case scenario, adds to the anxiety. Your mind magnifies what can go wrong and focuses on this. A feeling of fear and anxiety can rise up, creating a stronger sense of worry and anxiety. At this time, your limbic system in the brain, the part that is there to protect you and keep you safe from threat is in full alert. Your fight and flight response is activated as adrenaline is pumped into your blood, rational thought disappears as your brain prepares your body to keep safe. All rational thought and problem-solving capabilities disappear as your limbic system takes control of your thought processes.

However, what you need at these times is to get the part of the brain that regulates emotion and self-control activated. This is the pre-frontal cortex. And if you activate this, the limbic system reduces its response and your ability to become more rational in your thinking.

To activate this part of the brain, The three other possibilities technique is a simple and effective method to gently move out of the limbic system and into the calmer pre-frontal cortex. When you find yourself thinking about the worst case scenario, agree with yourself that it is a possibility. However, in any given situation, there are always many other possible outcomes that could occur. Ask yourself, “What are three other possible outcomes that could result from this scenario?” Just by asking yourself what are, the pre-frontal cortex starts to fire up and more positive outcomes come to your attention, leaving you feeling calmer and more rational. For example, your manager has asked you to do an important presentation to a possible new client. You immediately panic seeing yourself doing a really bad job, losing the client and making your manager angry with you. At this point you can focus on this negative thought loop or you can ask yourself “What are three other possible outcomes from this?”
1) Possible answers could be:
2) Your presentation goes well.
3) They sign up as a new client.
Your confidence increases as you realise the process has gone much better than you thought it would.
Remember that 95% of what you worry about never happens. So choose to activate your pre-frontal cortex and enjoy the process rather than living in your limbic system. Life is much more relaxed.

If you are looking to reduce your stress, I invite you to contact me to find how you can reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start to enjoy life again.

With love Giselle x

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