When You're Caught Up in the What-If Game


Oh, boy, the What-If Game. Have you played it? Have you found yourself, like I have, wondering what you'll do if x happens, or if y doesn't happen? I'm not talking about thinking practically about cause-and-effect scenarios or planning for the future in necessary ways. I'm talking about panicking about every possible worst-case scenario, putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.

I've been doing that lately with my book. It launches next week, and if I'm not careful, I can get myself knee-deep in frantic, worried thoughts before I even realize it.

What if this book is a flop?

What if I can't make a living writing?

What if I'm not a good writer after all?

I don't want to indulge in those thoughts. I don't want to spend my time worrying about all the possible outcomes. I don't want to get started down that slippery spiral, where one "what if" leads to another, and another, and another.

The truth is that even if all of those things happen, everything will be fine. If the worst-case scenarios play out, then that's just one door closed.

Even if things don't play out the way we expect, that doesn't mean they didn't play out the way they're supposed to. Perhaps missing out on one thing means something even better is ahead.

What's the solution? It begins with paying attention to our thoughts. After all, if we don't think about what we're thinking about, how can we ever hope to change our thought patterns? We can't.

So we think about what we're thinking about. We choose to consciously control what we think and believe. And when we catch ourselves starting to think negatively or get worried and stressed, we can redirect our thoughts before we get too far gone. You and I have the power to manage our thoughts; we can choose positive thoughts. We have the ability to decide, even in the heat of the moment or when things aren't going our way, to think that things will work out. We can substitute our pessimistic thoughts with realistic or optimistic thoughts.

I'm not advocating for unrealistic, fluffy thoughts like "everything's just peachy." We can acknowledge challenges and still counter them with better ways of thinking that still are realistic and based on truth. We can remind ourselves that we aren't in control, things will work out in the end, and we've come through hard things before.

If you can't help but get caught up in the What-If Game, perhaps you can try to at least balance the negative with the positive.

What if the book does great?

What if I can turn my writing into a way to make a living?

What if I am a good writer?

What if this is just the beginning of a fabulous adventure I can't possibly imagine?

I can assure you that, no matter what else is true, that last one is certain. Life is one great big adventure, full of little adventures, so there definitely is one around the corner. What if you and I lived like we believe that's true? I think we'd be far happier, trusting, and content. Let's give it a try!


Do you play the What-If Game? How do you stop it? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!