We are all too often caught in unsatisfying familiarity because of "what if...?". We fear these two words juxtaposed at the beginning of a statement that might stretch us outside our comfort zone. The anxiety of change, or worse, change that results in a negative experience, drive us to maintain status quo. Now there is nothing wrong, per se, with status quo. It is stable, predictable, secure. You will always know what to expect. There will never be any surprises. Ever. Tomorrow and the next day and the day after that will be just like today, with very little variance. Maybe that's how you like your life. Safe. But you must ask yourself "Am I experiencing anything worthwhile?"
Is fear a compelling enough reason to not experience something? For some, it is reason enough. These people are more concerned with a predictable end result at any cost than they are concerned with having a poignant experience regardless of the final outcome.
Today, while pondering "what if...?". I was reminded about a Ted Talk title "How Great Leaders Inspire Action" by Simon Sinek. In his talk, Sinek discusses why some people and organizations are more effective at persuading masses of people than others. To be sure, none of the presented cases ever persuaded anyone. Instead, these leaders inspired others. How did they do it? Sinek attributes their success to thinking, acting and communicating from the inside out. Why? How? What? Too often though, we don't operate like this within our own selves. We are immediately looking for a result, the "what", that we miss the "how" and, more importantly, the "why". We forget the "why" is what inspires action, especially our own.
So let's think about all the "what if...?"s keeping us from experiencing life at its best. Take a moment right now, this very moment. What's eating at your heart? What are you indecisive over or what is in the back of your mind, deep down in your soul, that you've wanted to experience but haven't pursued because of "what if...?"? Got it? Now ask yourself these questions:
1) Am I truly happy experiencing this moment in my life?
2) Why am I happy or unhappy?
3) Can I do something to make my experience better?
If you can do something to improve your personal experience of this life, why wouldn't you? Perhaps the most common reason I hear is "What if I fail?" Well, I hate to break it to you honey but you will probably fail, many times, at a lot of things. That's okay. Really, it is. Failure is just an empty word that only holds the value you assert on it. What I think we really are afraid of is our expectations not being met. But the truth is that you control your expectations and here's a novel idea, if you have none, they will always be exceeded. So the fear of failure isn't a valid reason to not experience something.
You know what scares me more than anything in this world? No, it's not sharks or spiders or snakes. It's not that I'll die alone or that my loved ones won't know how much I love them when I'm gone. It's not that I will be poor or ugly when I'm old. No, it's none of those things. My greatest fear is "What if I don't...?" Even saying it out loud gives me the heebie-jeebies! You see, "what if...?" is not known. It is very uncertain whether it will happen or not. However, "what if I don't...?" is not uncertain. The consequences are very straightforward and guaranteed.
Problem: I want to open my own business
What If: I can't get up enough money to fund it; I lose money and/or time; People do not like my product/service; I quit my job and can't go back.
What If I don't: Ever experience entrepreneurship; Make an income doing what I love; Share my talents with my community.
Problem: I want to go back to school
What If: I apply but don't get in; I can't afford it; I can't manage my time efficiently
What if I don't: Learn a new field of expertise; Advance my career; Meet new people
You see, all the "What if...?" scenarios are not concrete. They are maybe, perhaps, possibly. All of the "What if I don't...?" scenarios are absolutely guaranteed. So instead of living for the result, which might not even come to pass, focus on the "why", which is facilitated through all of your "what if I don't...?"s. Whatever it is you're indecisive or timid about, be more afraid of the stagnancy than of the movement. Find your "Why" to this moment and to your life in general and then seek out all the ways you can experience your "Why".
I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
"It is a risk to love. What if it doesn't work out? Ah, but what if it does?!"
- Peter McWilliams