Combating the What-if SyndromeIf there was an Olympic sport for worrying I would be up on that winners podium receiving the gold medal and singing the national anthem with tears streaming down my face.  Of course I’d also be thinking, “What if my singing isn’t any good?  What if people think I cheated? What if I have a wardrobe malfunction while singing really badly?”

I’m the guy who visualizes the worst case scenario and then believes that it will surely happen.  True to my nature I’ve got a hurricane of “what-if’s” whirling around my brain as I begin to plan and organize this 1 year sabbatical.  What if I can’t pay off all my debts in 10 months?  What if I contract some rare tropical disease or even worse?  What if I’m no good at home schooling my kids?  What if I run out of money?  What if I can’t get a long term visa?  What if I don’t like living in Indonesia?

Ever notice how all of our “what-if” questions tend to revolve around the negative?  They always seem to hinge on some facet of deep-seated worry or self-doubt.  Maybe we suffer from lack of self esteem or don’t really trust our skills and abilities.

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results ~ Willie Nelson

But “what-if” we flipped everything around and started using our what-if’s in a positive light?  What if I have a great time?  What if I discover that I thrive living overseas? What if I find the thing that I am most passionate about and can actually make decent money doing?  What if my kids experience the wonders of the other half of their culture and learn incredible life lessons? What if by giving up my job and doing something exciting I actually become healthier? What if giving up what I have now opens me up to incredible opportunities? What if I actually find happiness?

I think we can all agree that the power of positive thinking is of greater benefit than focusing on the negative.  And yet while we all know that and can all agree that it is true we continue to struggle with the what-if syndrome.  Why is that?

Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.  ~Samuel Johnson

I know for myself there are several factors that play a role in why I suffer from what-if syndrome.  First, I tend to be a control freak.  I like to know what is going on now and what is going to happen in the future.  The thing is none of us know what the future will bring.  It doesn’t matter how much I worry about the future the fact is things will happen that I cannot predict or even anticipate.  It’s this fear of the unknown or uncertainty of the future that stops so many of us from pursuing what we want to pursue.  It would be nice to have guarantees but unfortunately that is not how life works.  There will always be an unknown, always be uncertainty. How we deal with and handle that is key to moving forward.

Often I deal with a lack of self-confidence or self-doubt.  Am I good enough to become a successful and profitable photographer?  Do I really have what it takes to live overseas?  How am I going to be able to figure all this stuff out?  I think though when I look back on my past I can see that all the times I lacked self confidence and questioned my ability to do something that I ended up getting it done regardless.  We all are capable of doing so much more than we believe we are capable of doing.

Maybe one of the biggest setbacks for me is my fear of change.  I’ve grown way too comfortable with the way things are.  It’s amazing what we are willing to put up with in order to keep things the way they are.  It’s comfortable.  It’s familiar.  It’s routine.  We tend to be creatures of habit so when something threatens or interrupts the routine we go into protective mode.  We get stressed.  Feeling stress leads us to want to get rid of that stress any way we can and frequently the easiest way is to give up our dreams and sink back into the comfortable routine.  Think back to a time when you stepped outside of your comfort zone.  Wasn’t it exhilarating?  Having a routine is great but stepping outside that routine is what living is all about.

Why not go out on a limb?  Isn’t that where the fruit is?  ~Frank Scully

I don’t have the answers on how to break out of this and overcome these limitations.  I struggle with these things almost daily.  It’s easy to say don’t be afraid, or have more self confidence or to not think about the worst case.  It’s easy to say don’t dwell on the what-if’s.  But the truth is the application can be much more difficult.

But maybe a good start is to simply work on turning our “what-if’s” around and shine the light of positivity on them.  “What if I run out of money?” becomes “What if I am successful and become rich and actually enjoy life?”  “What if I don’t like living in Indonesia?” becomes “What if I really love it there and never want to leave?”  Slowly over time as we enrich ourselves with the power of positive thinking our minds will change and we’ll find ourselves living the dreams we never thought possible.

Do you suffer from “What-if Syndrome”?  If so I’d love to hear what ninja tactics you’ve used to combat the what-if’s.

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