One of the most common negative thought patterns is to get caught up in the worst-case scenarios or ‘what-ifs’ for events in our lives. This habit comes from a place of control and allows us to feel like we’re in control of our external world. If we can predict the harm, embarrassment or failure that may come our way, then we feel as though we can take “informed” steps to prevent these negative outcomes. However, the issue here is that we are usually not informed with factual, realistic information but rather with irrational, unsubstantiated information that we curate in our mind. These scenarios come from a well-meaning place of keeping us safe, but in doing that they also keep us limited, small and stuck in procrastination.
I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt (because maybe you’re super intuitive) and note that there is a small chance that the scenarios you have envisaged could eventuate, but this is a VERY small chance. Often these scenarios are built on irrational fears, distortion and limiting beliefs and NEVER turn into reality.
I am a recovering “what-if” person and often have to catch myself from focusing on negative outcomes and reconsider. During my study in psychology, I learnt about challenging anxious thoughts and kept a journal of the situations I feared would happen. I would then go back each week or so and have a look over situations that may have passed and I would write down what actually happened and wait for it – NONE of my worse case scenarios ever happened, not even close. They were quite positive outcomes. For example, there was a work deadline that I had to meet that seemed unrealistic to me at the time and I went down the rabbit hole of thinking that I wouldn’t complete it on time, that I would let down my team and would have to deal with the shame of being reprimanded or even fired. When I reviewed this entry a week or so later, I realised that I had actually achieved the deadline to a higher standard than my boss expected, and it was considered to be an area that I could specialise in.
If we allow ourselves to believe our often crazy “what-ifs”, all we do is limit our potential and keep ourselves from doing things that might open up huge opportunities, improved connection or amazing experiences for us. Once you understand that all these thoughts are there for is to keep you safe, then you can start to challenge and reframe them. If you find that you are trapped in these scenarios and they prevent you from moving forward, then I encourage you to do the following:
Ask yourself what is the opposite of your “what-if” scenario? That is, what is the best case scenario?
If you start to reframe your thoughts and choose not to buy into your irrational fears, then you can see the positive side and the potential of the things you can achieve. You might even like to keep a journal like I did, and write down the best-case scenario and focus on that. If I had have said to myself that I would achieve my deadline with exceeded expectations and forge a place for myself in that speciality, imagine how much more empowered and confident I would have felt completing the task?
Let me know below what the opposite or best-case scenario is for one of your current “what-if” situations and how it feels to reframe these thoughts!