It seems that whenever we start a sentence with “What if… ” we end it with a negative or unfathomable phrase. For example, “What if I screw up?”, or “What if they don’t like me?” or “What if I fail?” The truth is that these are completely pointless questions. Amazingly, they become reasons why we don’t do something that we claim to really want to do. Add to the list sentences that start with “Yes, but… “, “I can’t… “, “I don’t know… ” and more.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then these questions and phrases are something worse than insanity. We repeat these negative statements regularly and yet somehow we expect a positive result. How on earth is that going to happen? We never attempt to answer them, either. What if you did fail? Take some time to list out the consequences of that failure, and what you can do to recover from it. Guess what, for the first time you have actually answered the “What if… ” question, which resulted in its elimination. Hurrah!
More importantly, stop focusing any energy on such thoughts and instead focus on the thoughts that will lead you to achieving whatever it is you desire. Nothing beats thorough preparation, planning and practice. If you are afraid to push the start button on that new initiative, consider the objective and the steps needed to get it done. Review your detailed plan and your preparation and resources to execute it. Also, assess the realistic and specific risks of things that may go wrong along the way and develop contingency plans.
If your “What if… ” question is more specific than “I might fail”, then you can benefit by changing the language you use to express the concern. Changing the language helps you to convert the objections from unsolvable questions into actionable information and steps. For example, let’s say you want to launch a new seminar program and you have the content and presentation materials developed. You even have potential customers who have told you they are interested and will pay you to attend your seminar. Yet, you are frozen in place with a statement like, “What if my seminar fails?”
To move forward requires a different, more specific set of questions, such as, “How do you measure the success of the first seminar?” If only ten people came when you expected fifty, is that a failure? If three of ten people gave you a raving positive review, is that a failure? Each of these give us information about the success of the first seminar along with things we can learn from it to make the next one and the one following that even better.
Figure out who the ten people are and why they came. Make sure your future marketing efforts target more people just like them. Take the three raving positive reviews, use them as reference quotes and include the messages in your marketing. Learn from the rest to make adjustments and improvements to your seminar. By this process, we can see that the only way the seminar could actually fail is if nobody was interested or if all of the participants panned it. Then it is time to go back to the drawing board, but you will have demonstrated the answer to the original question.
Chances are, if your planning and preparation are thorough, and if you ask the right questions about your initial performance, the outcome for you will not be a failure and you will gain important insights to move forward. Each time you find yourself saying “What if… ” stop and think of something positive to say and then rephrase your question with a new question that will enable you to take action. Choose your words to break free of the fear that keeps you stuck.