I read an online article recently about psychology, which referred to a type of person who always expects bad things to happen. But rather than worrying or being unduly anxious about it, they plan ahead, in order to mitigate a future bad situation they expect might happen to them. This wasn't perceived as a negative attitude and the article gave this behaviour a description. Maybe it's well known in psychology circles or maybe it was just used in this article.

Unfortunately I cannot find the article, so I am enlisting your assistance. What we are looking for is a two word expression to describe such behaviour. It should not describe someone who is pessimistic, but rather someone who takes into account that bad things may happen and structures his life accordingly.

A similar example would be 'active defence,' which describes the behaviour of getting your retaliation in first.

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    People at the extreme end of this spectrum, way past reasonable and judicious care, are known as [Doomsday] Preppers (who, in their own parlance, call themselves Survivalists). They carry around "bug out bags" so the moment the nukes fall or aliens invade, they can "bug out" to their bunker in Montana which is stocked with 5 years of baked beans and diesel fuel.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 11:46
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    You possibly are thinking of, simply, "pessimist". You could also simply be thinking of "paranoid". (Andy Grove (RIP), who gave us much of the modern world as the genius behind Intel, famously said "Only the paranoid survive!")
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 12:00
  • Can you link the article or copy and past its few important sentences?
    – user140086
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 12:24
  • Cautious works fine. If you want to hammer home the prep., toss in a hyphenated term like planner.
    – The Nate
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 18:16
  • Risk conscious?
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 20:06

6 Answers 6


An expression / not one word:

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.

"Essentially, the importance of expecting the best lies in having the best possible outcome to aim for – to achieve. It provides our mind a goal to strive for. It is important to understand that preparing for the worst has nothing to do with being optimistic or pessimistic. It is simply a sound thing to do in executing our analysis of our current situation. We simply need to look at all possible outcomes from the best to the worst in order for us to be able to make a sound analysis and decision of what would be the best decision to take next."



Not two word but one word.

Proactive https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proactive

"People who tend to react to a problem only when it's gotten serious could be called reactive people. Until recently, reactive (in this sense) didn't really have an antonym. So proactive was coined to describe the kind of person who's always looking into the future in order to be prepared for anything."


"Hyper vigilant" may be it or spark something for you that brings the phrase to mind.

From the following article on hypervigilance:

"Hypervigilance is a natural feature of your limbic system, which manages your fight-or-flight response. It comes in handy in several scenarios, including:

walking home late at night by yourself
meeting online dates in person
driving through a thunderstorm
traveling in a foreign country
babysitting or taking care of minors

Because it protects you in precarious situations, a small dose of hypervigilance is actually a good thing from time to time."

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    This may be a good fit, but you need to back it up! Can you edit in any example quotes of this being used in the context of psychology? Thanks
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 2:52


Fatilism (from the Freedictionary.com):

  1. The doctrine that all events are predetermined by fate and are therefore unalterable.
  2. Acceptance of the belief that all events are predetermined and inevitable.

I think you're describing a person who is "Continually cautious"!

  • That doesn't have the added meaning of 'being prepared', though.
    – Joachim
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 12:16
  • Cautious implies the exercise of forethought ! Careful consideration of what may happen in the future Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 6:07

I agree with the answer that hyper villigence has all that you were asking for also it can be a sign of a psychological problem and it is a state of heightened awareness and watchfulness , and they, are people that are constantly on guard and on the lookout for danger, even , when there is little to no risk of something bad happening !

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 6:35

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