By: Christine Hassler, reprinted with permission from ChristineHassler.com
Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of the question. – Tennessee Williams
What if? This question evokes a feeling of wonderful possibility or dreadful panic. For many, it’s the latter. What if questions usually pop-up when we are navigating our way through unknown territory. When worrying about a situation or facing anxiety about something in the future, the incessant what if questioning begins: “What if X happens? What if X doesn’t happen? What if I do X? What if I can’t do X? What if he/she does X? What if he/she doesn’t?” And on and on and on.
One of my most utilized coaching techniques is what I call answering the what ifs. When I hear my clients ask a what if question, I interrupt them and request that they answer it. This usually surprises them, because they were really into a fretting flow of unanswered questioning. My encouragement to you today is to practice this coaching technique of answering your what ifs. Otherwise they will continue to loop around in your mind and create stress. Your mind does not like unanswered questions. And since most of us are not like Buddha sitting on the mountain totally present and unattached to anything our mind creates, it is useful to understand what our mind wants and give it what it wants!
Imagine a three-year old child tugging on his mom’s shirt and saying repeatedly, “Mom, mom, mom, mom!” in an attempt to get her attention. So what happens the more she tries to ignore him? The tugging gets harder and the “mom-ing” gets louder. But as soon as she addresses the child, the tugging and calling out quickly stops. And usually all the child wanted in the first place was attention and acknowledgment.
This is what your what ifs need: to be acknowledged and addressed. So go ahead and answer your what ifs each time they come up. Talk them out, even go to worst-case scenario because you’ll realize that you can always talk yourself through a possible solution. And guess what? You are making it all up anyway! Remember that worry is our imagination used poorly. So after you talk out the worst that could happen, you might as well talk out your best-case scenario too. And you will soon discover that stopping and answering your what ifs one by one (because what if thinking is contagious) will soothe that mind of yours that is working so hard to manage all of your question marks. And once you become aware that you can harness the power of your mind to solve any imagined situation, you will have more peace of mind.
And what if you don’t answer your what ifs? I’ll let you answer that…
~ Christine Hassler
20 Something Transition Expert, Campus Calm™