Your brain loves to play tricks on you. And one of the ways it does this is by throwing all sorts of random thoughts at you. Bacon and eggs while you’re in a meeting, cats playing baseball while you’re at lunch with a colleague, wildfires and hurricanes coming together while you’re settling into bed.
Your brain doesn’t care what they are. The more fantastic, outlandish, or terrifying, the better as far as it is concerned, because it is utterly random and completely made up.
That is the wonder and beauty that make us human. It’s what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom: the ability to imagine!
Sometimes it feels good because it builds anticipation and excitement for the hopeful fruition of this new idea. And sometimes if feels pretty crappy as you struggle with the disappointment, fear, or devastating overwhelm of the imagined doom that may occur.
The anticipation and excitement give us hope and joy for what will come next.
But the despair and denigration freeze us in our tracks unable to calculate the next step forward.
These are the ‘What ifs’ in our life. These are the thoughts that hold us back. These are the perceived beliefs that prevent us from living our best lives.
- What if people make fun of me at the party?
- What if I don’t get this job I’m interviewing for?
- What if I’m not good enough to make the team?
- What if I stumble over my words and freeze on stage in front of the audience?
Sure, these are all possible scenarios. But are they likely? Who knows?
What ifs are like over-protective parents.
- Don’t forget your sweater.
- Don’t forget to say thank you.
- Don’t forget to look both ways before you cross the street.
It was annoying when you were a kid and it’s even more annoying now because you are saying these things to yourself. But it’s not completely dreadful; It’s just your brain trying to protect you from possible harm.
What IF people make fun of me at the party? What IF I don’t get this job?
Those are valid concerns. Be grateful that your brain is there to protect you. But do so with a grain of salt.
Turn your ‘What ifs’ into ‘Even ifs.’
When you hear your brain say, “What if I don’t get this job I’m interviewing for?”, acknowledge that you hear this concern, and challenge yourself to devise a contingency plan with an ‘Even if’ solution.
It might go something like this: “Even if I don’t get this job, I will have earned the opportunity to learn from this interview and gain deeper insight so I can be better prepared for my next interview.”
Notice a few things going on in that ‘Even if’ statement. We turned a negative into a positive. We stayed future-focused by looking forward to the next interview. And we used the word “earned” when speaking about the opportunity.
This is important because the use of the word “earned” is intentional. We’re not just saying we “got the opportunity”, that it just “happened to us.”
This is what makes the ‘Even if’ statement so powerful.
And it works on all types of ‘What ifs’. For instance, “What if people make fun of me at the party?”
How do we turn this into an ‘Even if’ statement?
It might go something like this: “Even if people make fun of me at the party, I will have earned the self-confidence of going out when I was scared and the self-respect of being myself when I could have been a fake.”
But it doesn’t have to be those words. You make it into whatever statement works for you. It’s your ‘Even if’. Find what gives you courage. Devise a plan to build your strengths. And create a bold statement that turns your brain’s made up, over-exaggerated concern into a powerful growth strategy.
Look, your brain is a fountain of ideas; some worthwhile, and some completely absurd. Your job is to be aware that your brain likes to keep you in a safety zone, so it creates wild scenarios to make you think twice about doing that challenging thing.
And thinking twice is just fine.
Once to acknowledge the concern, and once to develop a strategy forward. That’s it. No mulling over it again and again and again building yourself into a frenzy.
Now, I’m not saying this will be easy. It will be very hard to do sometimes. But next time you’re faced with one of your brain’s clever, little ‘What if’ scenarios, how will you handle it?
How will you quiet your nagging mind and use it as leverage to prove your worth? How will you use your brain’s over-protective opinions to create empowering, emboldened solutions? How will you turn your next incapacitating ‘What if’ into an inspiring ‘Even if?’
Your Mindful Moment:
Don’t let your fear of ‘What if’ block your dream of imagining a bigger, better, bolder ‘What if!’Tweet