The “What If?” Game

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

iStock_000020802379_MediumHave you ever found yourself lamenting missed opportunities? When most people experience a crisis in their personal or professional lives they often further beat themselves up by using language that highlights disappointing, unrealized goals: What if…I had a better relationship with my boss?  I would have gotten the promotion.  Or, What if…I had gotten my MBA/PHD? I would have had an envious career.

I’ve found that when we get entangled in our disempowering beliefs the What If? Game creeps in to every aspect of our lives—feeding our insecurities and fears.  The irony is that the time when people need to be the most confident is often the time when they feel the least courageous.

We have constructed a simple formula that enables people to take their power back:

  • Listen to the language you are using.
  • Determine if it’s empowering and motivating or not.
  • Concentrate on the things you can influence.
  • Visualize a successful outcome.
  • If you are engaged in disempowering thinking/language, immediately shift your focus to positive opportunities, thus putting yourself back in charge, not your “runaway mind.”

What if…I had a better relationship with my boss?

Becomes – What does my boss need and want from me? What would the impact be if I identified areas (and strategies) where I can contribute more?  How can I operate differently to generate even greater support and endorsement?  What if…I asked others for feedback as to how I could more effectively partner with them?

What if…I had gotten my MBA/PHD?

Becomes – What if I fully accessed my current talents, skills, abilities, and experiences?  What’s holding me back?  Where can I go from here?

When you focus on what you are grateful for and what you have, versus wishing your life were different, you open the doors to becoming more of the person you dreamed you could be.

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” Henry David Thoreau.

What is the one thing you could do this next week that would unlock more of your potential?


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Cornelia Weber-Fuerst

    Clyde, thank you for highlighting this game. I think it is quite common and one of the pre-conscious repetative movements of our thinking. I would also be curious to find out, what it actually provides for the person, when using it. Is it a sense of conformation that I cannot do anything (differently) right now? Does it relieve from self responsibility? Does it provide a sense of self reflectiveness? I guess there is always something in it for us – subconsciously.

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