Ever had that moment when you really wanted to say something — maybe crack a joke or make a point that no one else had seen yet – but instead found yourself wondering what the consequences for speaking up would be?
“What if I say something stupid?”
“What if nobody agrees with me?”
“What if my joke’s not funny?”
“What if I get embarrassed and my face turns red?”
“What if I’m so nervous I stutter and spit flies into my boss’s coffee?
So instead of speaking your mind, you just keep your mouth shut. After all, you sure as hell don’t want to spit into your boss’s coffee, right? At least, not when he’s looking.
That, my friend, is the “what if” train wreck. You let all these imaginary scenarios take over your mind to the point that non-action was the only choice you were comfortable with.
And as you can see, sometimes these scenarios are just plain ridiculous.
That Train Has Left the Station
But it doesn’t really matter how ridiculous the scenario might be, what matters is how it affects you.
- It distracts you from the present – It’s impossible to focus on the moment when we’re in our heads and worrying about what might happen in the future.
- It makes you anxious – As far as your mind is concerned, those “what if” scenarios are real . . . they’re actually happening. You might even begin to show physical symptoms like an accelerated heart rate, sweating and heavy breathing.
- It breeds inaction – This is the worst possible outcome. You’ve let your out of control imagination stop you dead in your tracks. Now you’re just standing still . . . going nowhere.
Once you’ve started down those tracks, it can be next to impossible to stop that “what if” freight train. You’ve set yourself on a collision course. More and more scenarios start going through your head. One scenario spawns another. Each one is more extreme than the last.
They gain steam. Fear and doubt take control.
And then you crash.
You cave to your irrational worries and become paralyzed. A wreck. Just sittin’ there unable to do jack shit. All because of a few ridiculous thoughts racing through your head – most of which never even have a chance of coming true.
Don’t Even Board That Train
The best way to avoid the wreck is to stay off the train in the first place. Easier said than done, I know. But it helps to be aware of a few things when you find you thoughts drifting to all those “what if” scenarios . . .
People don’t give a shit – I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, but seriously, people are not that into you. You’re sittin’ there worrying about what they’re gonna think if you say something stupid.
Well, I’ll tell you what they’re gonna think . . . nothing.
They’re too caught up in their own little world to care about some stupid shit you might say. They might even be on that same train, about to crash themselves. So don’t sweat it. No one’s paying much attention anyway.
All you can see are negative outcomes – Think about it. When you start losing your thoughts to ‘what ifs,” do they ever come with a happy ending?
Each and every one is a worse case scenario. At the very least, a rational mind would come up with a ratio closer to 50/50.
But all you can see is the negative.
That’s because “what ifs” are actually an infestation. Like a fucking maggot’s nest in your brain. One begets another and soon your mind is riddled with ‘em. You’ll never see clearly when your thoughts are that infected.
You just don’t fucking KNOW! – This is the cold hard truth. Whatever the scenario going through your head, whatever negative thoughts may be festering, the fact is you have no clue what’s going to happen until it happens. No clue whatsoever.
But it ain’t gonna happen is it? You’ve crashed.
So the only result you’re left with is nothing. Because you did nothing. Now imagine a lifetime of such choices.
How’s that gonna feel at the end of your days? A life of nothing.
But what if it’s too late? Those “what ifs” have started creeping into your thoughts and you feel that familiar sense of doubt stating to take over?
Is there any hope for you this late in the game?
How to Change Tracks
So you’ve boarded the train and now it’s left the station. Whatever it is you want to say, whatever it is you want to do, you find yourself stuck. One “what if” turns into two, turns into four. The infection is spreading and you’re becoming paralyzed. Afraid to act.
What do you do?
At this point it’s make or break. You have to decide and you have to decide quickly. Decisively. No time for long mental debates about the pros and cons. No time for step-by-step procedures. No lollygagging.
You have just this one second to act. Or not. The coin’s been tossed and it can fall heads or tails.
Again, what do you do?
The answer is surprisingly simple. You only need two little words. My favorite two little words.
They work like magic. It’s like flipping a switch. In an instant you go from anxiety to action. From worrywart to a fucking superhero.
I’ve written about the power of these two little words before. While that post focused on their ability to snap you out of procrastination, “fuck it” can be used for so much more. In fact, I think it’s time I revisit the idea. Reveal its true power.
So for my next post I’m going to really dig in to the Theory of Fuck It. Show you why it works so well, and more importantly, how to get the most from it.
I’ll even show you how it can change your life. No bullshit.
So stay tuned . . .
(Photo by Studio Lévy and Sons, courtesy of Robyn Jay at flickr.)