How to Deal with What IFS thinking in and Assumptions of Worst Outcomes
Our lives are filled with multiple ‘what ifs’ and there’s not much we can do about it. It’s just human nature to let our minds wander. What-if thoughts can actually be beneficial since they prepare us for potentially threatening or dangerous situations. The problem starts when we enter a negative cycle of Catastrophizing.
For some strange reason, 9 times out of 10 we assume the worst and won’t allow the thought of a happy ending to even briefly cross our minds. If that sounds like you, here’s an exercise I want you to try over the next few days.
Every time a what if shows up, try to reframe it.
Reassuming the Worst Outcomes:
Turn ‘what if I fail?’ into ‘what if I succeed?’ ‘What if I never find anyone to love?’ into ‘What if I find the perfect person?’ ‘What if they hate me?’ into ‘What if they become my new friends?’ ‘What if I fail the exam?’ into ‘What if I pass the exam?’ ‘What if I go and have a terrible time?’ into ‘What if I go and have the best time of my life?’ ‘What if none of this is worth it?’ into ‘What if this pays off?’ ‘What if everyone laughs at me?’ into ‘What if everyone loves me?’ ‘What if I’ll never be good enough?’ into ‘What if I already am?’
The aim of this exercise is threefold.
1. Paralyzed by fear of a possible negative outcome, we tend to feel restricted and we don’t do our best, or even worse – we avoid the situation altogether. Noticing negative thought patterns and entertaining the prospect of a happy ending makes you more likely to focus on the journey rather than its outcome.
2. It simply feels good to indulge in positivity. Anything that provides respite from suffering should always be welcomed, even if you welcome it for just a few seconds.
3. After a while, you’ll hopefully realize that both the extremely negative and positive, is highly unlikely. The world falls somewhere in between and that beautiful mediocrity is good enough.