Two powerful words we don’t always consider are, “what if”. They have been the catalyst of high achievement and discovery, as well as the seeds of mediocrity and lost opportunities. They have brought hope to some, while dashing hope for others. These two words influence our lives, for better or worse. It just depends on how we use them.
More often than not, I’ve heard these words being used in the context of worries. “What if I don’t get the job?”, “What if I don’t make the sale?”, “What if she doesn’t like me?”, “What if my child makes the wrong choice?”, and on the list goes.
I’ve found myself worrying about things from time to time. Admittedly, it took me nearly an hour before I picked up the phone to ask out my, now, wife on our first date. It’s funny how, when we are stressed, we make a situation bigger than it actually is. Stress keeps us from seeing the big picture; from seeing things as they really are.
Using “what if” in a negative or pessimistic way keeps us from projecting a better future for ourselves and others. It can keep us from attempting things that are good for us. It keeps us from learning and growing. It keeps us from contributing. It keeps us in fear. Had I allowed my worry to dictate all my actions, I never would have asked my wife on a date; we never would have had the beautiful family we have now.
There is a positive side to, “what if”, though. These two words have sparked change that affected both individuals and the world. Because people asked, “What if man could fly?”, we now have airplanes. Communities have changed, businesses launched, and inventions created because someone asked, “What if we did things differently?”. And of course, entire family trees were started because someone asked, “What if we got married?”
While these examples are more extreme than what we tend to experience daily, learning to use “what if” in a positive context can improve our day and lead to an improved life. We can ask questions such as, “What if I was kinder to my wife today?”; “What if I do get the job?”; “What if I decided to be happy whether or not I made the sale?”; “What if today, I decided to start that health program?” “What if” can become a catalyst for positive change in our lives.
An important note to remember: changing our “what if’s” to something positive doesn’t mean we will always get what we want. Sometimes we don’t get the job, the girl says no, and the deal doesn’t close. Life is full of variety and unpredictability. However, when we start changing the way we think and look at the positive possibilities, we start changing ourselves. We create a healthier physical and emotional environment. We are better able to manage stress and the curveballs of life.
Additionally, don’t assume that you can just think in a positive way and you’ll automatically obtain what you want. Lasting achievement in any category requires work. If it’s a job, think about the potential positive, then use your creativity and talents. If you want to date someone, think positively, then be respectful and kind. If it’s making a sale, think positively, then work ethically and do your best to serve your potential client without worrying about the outcome.
Worry is always focused on the future. The truth is we don’t know what will happen next year, tomorrow, or even in an hour. Things don’t always go the way we hope, but that’s ok. It’s part of life. It’s part of how we learn. We can’t force ourselves to be positive (this leads to stress), but as we learn to recondition our minds to find the good possibilities and the good in life, then we can face each of life’s challenges with greater energy and perspective, becoming a little wiser with each passing day.