“What if…” Moderate Anxious Thoughts

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“What if… it doesn’t work out?”

The again, what if it does?

So much of our worry and anxiety stems fro the question, “What if…?”

When we think “What if…” it’s like our brain substitutes it for the question, “What’s the worst case scenario if…?”

The true intention of “What if…” is to explore possibility. That means the potentially negative and the potentially positive. But these potentialities operate in very different ways.

Negative potential outcomes keep us stuck. They alert our fight, flight or freeze response which can have some of us running for the hills or procrastinating taking action.

Negative potential outcomes spiral. We need to take action, but with the worst case scenario in our mind we respond, “Yes, but…” and “no, but…” to any chance of forward momentum that may carry us into full blown risk.

“You need to do this,” our mind pleads. “Yes, but not now,” our excuses are always at the read. “You’re capable of this,” our inner champion cries. “No. But there are so many people much better than me.” Chasing our tail round and round.

Negative potential outcomes are only one possible outcome. They are not necessarily the most likely (although believing they are will bring them to be). They are also not necessarily carefully weighed. They’re just our natural response to perceived risk.

It’s good to be aware of the negative potential outcomes so we can be prepared. But they should not be considered in a vacuum. When weighed fairly with positive outcomes we get a balanced view. Only from this perspective an we make informed decisions.

Positive potential outcomes propose forward momentum. They invite alternative approaches, help from others, applied effort, a new strategy. They carry us forward.

Unlike the “No, but’s…” of negative possibility, positive outcomes invite, “Yes, and…” responses.

What if it goes really well?” your mind asks. “Yes, and it might even go better than expected. Yes, and we’re likely to grow as we learn about this process. Yes, and then we could share that experience with others…”

Instead of chasing our tail, we’re propelling the possibility forward. We’re allowing our mind to bravely dream, to follow it’s natural curiosity without the fear of real action.

There are two sides to the story but they are not equal. Our mind has a negativity bias, it tends to hold negative outcomes as more credible and more likely. For every one negative thought, we need three positive thoughts to balance it out.

This Creative Exploration intrinsically leverages these ratios. It’s a fun experiment to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed with worry and anxiety. I find it’s quite meditative and calming.

If you’re excited by the possibility of “What If…” and want a focussed community to support you through this change NOW, consider working with Torey Ivanic at Open Space. Torey uses Mastermind sessions as a space to change the way you feel, think or live in order to live a life in alignment with your values.

As always, let me know what you come up with. I’d love to cheer you on!

Be brave and curious,

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