It can fall both ways, can’t it?
‘What if it’s a terrible decision that I regret?’ stops us moving towards new things, while
‘What if I regret not trying?’ pushes us towards something new.
More often than not, when we struggle with anxious thoughts, we tend towards the first option. Where we are is known, safe and anything new can feel a bit risky and uncomfortable.
I tend towards the safe. I try to challenge myself a lot now; as I say so often, I can’t ask my clients to do something I wouldn’t. But every so often I challenge myself in a way that could be considered plain daft.
Today this memory came up on Facebook :
It wasn’t the biggest challenge I’ve ever given myself, but it is up there. You see, the year before I’d spent my holiday doing relief work in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan (that was my biggest challenge). It had been harrowing, hard work, so the following year I decided to go back out to see the family I had stayed with, then travel on alone to one of the beautiful islands for the single independent woman holiday of a lifetime. I intended to have massages, use the spa, lie in the sun reading, walk on the beach, eat all sorts of amazing food, and….relax.
To cut a very long story short, as I arrived so did TWO typhoons. The resort was practically empty and there was nothing to do (I had a massage and that was a pretty terrifying thing, and the lovely lady had to come to the resort especially for me as I was one of three guests. The other two were a German couple who spoke no English). Even the bar and restaurant were off limits as they had no sides and the rain and wind swept in. You couldn’t swim because of all the lightening strikes, and anyway, I’m not keen – I can’t put my head near the water so swim like some sort of deformed giraffe.
I considered going home early. Then I stopped my pity party and thought about the one thing I could do here…scuba diving.
What if I enjoyed it?
I went to see the dive master. He said if the lightening stopped, I could try it out in the pool.
What if that was what made the holiday unforgettable?
Two days later, after some theory work, I did just that. And had a panic attack (I really don’t like putting my head under water). But I decided to do what was suggested and go in the sea the next day because…
What if everything I could see distracted me?
It didn’t – I couldn’t see a thing because the sea was so rough from the typhoons the sand was all churned up. But I could try again the next day, couldn’t I, because…
What if it settled and was amazing?
Well, it turns out that over the week it did settle a little and I did see some of the underwater world. And it turns out that I am stupidly stubborn and kept going back, even though the thing I got best at was having a panic attack and throwing up Every Single Time I got more than 12 meters down… (that’s quite impressive as the divers among you will know that you can’t just pop back up to the surface at that point…)
Amazingly though, I managed to pass all my tests – theory and practical – and get SSI (Scuba School International) certified.
Now, this is a bit of a weird example when it comes to telling people to look at the positive side of that ‘what if?’ I mean, it didn’t end up with me finding a new passion. It didn’t even end up with me enjoying it. However, I did make friends in the dive team, and the staff at the resort, we had common ground to talk about, I did have a focus and I had the most amazing sense of achievement.
Six years ago I could have got an early flight and come home and…sat in my house with my cat for the rest of my holiday. Instead, I lived that motivational quote and did something that scared me every day and saw it through to the end. And I have laughed about it ever since.
What if I could go back in time? Would I do the same thing again? Yes, I absolutely would.
What if I could go scuba diving on my next holiday? Not a chance in hell!
I guess that is quite a dramatic example. There are smaller ‘what if’s?’ though, that don’t involve specialising in underwater panic attacks.
What’s the ‘what if? floating around your head right now, my lovely? And if you flip it to the positive ‘what if?’ how does that feel?
What if it turned out just how you wanted it to?
What if it was the best decision you ever made?
What if you said yes?
Or no? (Because that’s not always bad either)
What if you like it after all?
What if they all think you’re amazing?
What if you can do it?
What if it’s exactly what you’ve been looking for the past weeks and months and years?
What if it’s the best idea you ever had?
And what if you do nothing, and get that early flight home?