What if….?

Think of a goal that you’ve been working toward.  Or perhaps one you’ve been thinking about forever, but haven’t really gotten serious about starting.  Consider for a minute why not?  The most common responses I get to this question fall under the “what if” umbrella.  “What if” is another label for “worry” and we all know that worrying does nothing.  Worry is an indulgent emotion that serves no useful purpose.  It keeps us “stuck” in inaction and keeps us from fully stepping into the life we were created for.

“What ifs” are a window into what we really believe. 
“What if I can’t do it?”
says I believe I can’t.
“What if I fail?”
says I think I will.
“What if they disapprove?”
implies I need them to.
So let’s go back to that goal you haven’t achieved (or started!) yet.  Grab a sheet of paper and brainstorm all your “What ifs.” Make a list.  Spill them all.  And then go back and answer every single one.

What if my husband doesn’t support my dream? Then I’d want to understand why, and I would need to decide what that means for me.
What if I fail?  Then I’d have exactly what I have now, but at least I’d know I tried.
What if I’m not smart enough? Then I’d learn as I go.

There’s a lot we can learn by asking good questions. But the “What if?” is rarely helpful.  It’s not a bad question if we make ourselves answer!  But generally, we pose this as a rhetorical question to ourselves and then use it as proof that “I shouldn’t try”.

Three insights you’ll likely find:

  1. Most of the things we worry about never happen. (What a waste of brain energy!)
  2. The answers often show us a deeper fear or thought that’s holding us back. (Which is actually good because we can’t slay giants if we refuse to face them.)
  3. The majority of “worst case” outcomes we imagine wouldn’t be nearly as big of a deal as we think.  In fact, if you follow the outcome down the rabbit hole (by continuing to ask yourself “and then what would happen?”) you’d find that the worst that would happen is you’d feel a feeling.

Now make a second list, posing the opposite of each of the question on your first list, and then answer each one.
What if he does support me?  Then I’ll have to make this a success so I don’t let him down.
What if I succeed?  Then I’ll know that I can, and will try more things.
What if I AM smart enough?  Then I’ll have to stop telling myself I’m not and using that as an excuse to to try.

Most people expect the answers to this set of questions to be freeing, and are surprised when they’re not.  This is because this set of questions & answers often uncovers the many ways we self-sabotage by using these smoke screens to convince ourselves that our goals are impossible.
Look what happens when we focus on “What ifs”:
Circumstance: (Goal-I.e. “Starting a business”)
Thought: “What if….(insert fear)”
Feeling: Worry
Action: Stay stuck, take no action toward goal, keep thinking about the problem, watch for evidence of how “bad” it is.
Result: My brain keeps the belief that the “what if” fear is justified and could happen (because I’ve done nothing to prove it isn’t)
The next time you catch yourself avoiding action toward a goal, pull back the curtain and check out your fears.  What if you slay those dragons and reach your goal?
No, really.
What if?

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