How to deal with your What ifs


Anxiety thrives on ‘what ifs’. Feed it well.

Those sneaky little questions about the possible future that we want answered now create anxiety. If you are going to ask yourself what if… try these ways instead.

Fear shows up in ‘what if?’

What ifs can be a tragic game to play. It can keep us stuck and can feed our fear. Many of us who know the term ‘analysis-paralysis’ are ‘what if’ing ourselves. What if I do this and I don’t succeed or this awful things happens or I’m not prepared? What if my big dreams end up being disappointments or the pain will last forever. What if, what it, what if…

There are ways to do the what if game right though. In fact, there are two ways you can stop the what ifs by using them in a supportive way. We can either follow it all the way down or ask ourselves “what if the opposite were true?”

#1 Follow the what if all the way down. Then find the truth.

We scare ourselves with general what ifs. The problem is we don’t really answer them. We only use them as an anxiety inducing stop-gaps. We allow our emotions to go wild without actually answering the question.

Instead let’s follow the what if down to see if we can get down to the real fear underneath. We’ll take an example of me writing this book and the what if chain that helped me move rather than get stuck in the do-loop.

  • What if I spend time writing this book and it fails by my terms of success?
  • Answer: I’ll be upset about the time and energy I invested.
  • What if I’m upset?
  • Answer: At some point I’ll have to get over it and write something else.
  • What if I have to write something else?
  • Answer: I’ll feel as though the first was a failure which means I wasted all that time when I could have been doing something more productive.
  • What happens if I’ve wasted time?
  • Answer: I won’t feel productive and will feel like a failure to my family and those depending on me.
  • What if I feel like a failure?
  • Answer: I won’t feel worthy.

See what I really need to address is the ”I won’t feel worthy.” Think about it. I won’t feel worthy if my book fails.  That’s the core wound – questioning my own worthiness.

When we follow it all the way down, we often find that the problem comes back to one of our core wounds we may know very well already. For me, it’s a familiar wound to me to feel like I won’t be loved or worthy if I’m not productive or a financial contributor. It’s not true of course, my family would love me if I could offer nothing. I know it, yet, it still sneaks into my life in many different areas.

We can see how if you actually answer the questions rather than let them fly around in your head, we can resolve them.

Take it to the last possible scenario and ask yourself, is this true and if it is, can I handle it?”

You may not like the truths you find there, but you can change them at any time.  

#2 Ask yourself the opposite:

This method stops the what ifs in their tracks and takes fear to a different level – the frexcitement level. All you have to do is ask yourself the opposite question to what you have been asking.

  • What if my book sucks?
  • Opposite: What if it freaking rocks?
  • What if this book serves no one?
  • Opposite: What if it serves millions of people?

Much different what ifs, right? Much different feeling too. These what ifs are exciting and inspiring. These what ifs keep us focused on what we want instead of what we don’t.  Thinking the opposite of those old stories and questions can create endless passion opportunities rather than limitations.

If you are going to follow through on What ifs, make them worthy.

Don’t let them just take space in your head for no reason. Those things will drive you mad with anxiety while robbing you of action and dominating your perspective.

Get the Book

This exercise came straight from the Inviting Shift Book. Learn more about the book or purchase it from Amazon.

Need Support?

Want to talk to see if coaching can help you manage your moments of anxiety and enjoy freedom from overthinking and stress? Learn more or contact me for a consult.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Great blog. I used to teach a version following it all the way down when I was a Business Analysis trainer. It’s a great tool to help you get to the root cause of a problem. That way your solution “treats” the real problem and not the symptoms. I’m currently looking at all my Business Analysis tools to see with they can be used in my new work and had forgotten this one. So thanks for the timely reminder.
    The “ask yourself the opposite” is great if you fear failure. If you think that you have found the “next bug thing” and you are terrified of what that might mean, other work that needs to be done


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