Consider this statement for a moment, 'It's not the unknown that scares you it is what you think you know that frightens you.' Aren't we taught that the unknown is ominous and scary? Aren't we conditioned to trust the tried and true? Those who take the road less traveled are considered to be rare individuals. The concluding lines from "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost state:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Would this poem be of merit if EVERYONE already took the road less traveled? Perhaps it would have value in that it would be a reminder of a cultural norm. If everyone took the road less traveled how could it in fact BE the road less traveled? Oh, I know everyone would be creating new roads and blazing new trails all of the time. We do not all do that. Why not? We are not afraid of the unknown, we are afraid of what we have deemed the unknown to be.
Think about it logically, you do not know what the unknown represents, so what are you specifically afraid of? It is all of the things that you think it could be. Where do these potential outcomes come from? From your knowledge and experience with known potential outcomes. For example, on Friday evening on the way out of the office your boss asks you to stop by her office as soon as you come in on Monday morning. She wants to discuss something with you and she does not have time for the discussion right now. She does not tell you what she wishes to discuss and before you can ask her, she heads out the door. You begin to wonder what could be so important that it requires a more lengthy discussion that needs to occur at the beginning of the work week.
Your mind begins to spin. Maybe you are going to be taken off of the project. Maybe your budget is going to be cut. Is one of your stakeholders displeased with you? Is your boss displeased with you? YOU DO NOT KNOW! You are becoming upset about what you think you know. The unknown is empty space. You are filling in the blanks with what you think it could be and you are reacting to what you think it could be.
Couldn't it also be a raise and a promotion and that she wants the time to discuss it with you properly? Maybe she simply needs you to help her prepare for a presentation.
The unknown is a blank slate, it is full of potential. Do not overreact. Do not let what you think you know allow you to become fearful.
PS. This does not mean to stop identifying and planning for those unknown risks, it does mean to remember to plan for both threats and opportunities!