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What if?

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what-if

Have you ever been in the state where you obsessively worry about what could happen in your life? Worrying about not having enough money and how to pay your bills? Wondering – “what if I lose my job?” “What if my children get hurt?” “What if that medical test shows a serious illness?” The endless “what if” questions that get us into a state of fear….

When my daughter Laura was 7 years old I had an experience that shifted my “what if’s” of worrying to a different kind of “what if.”

As we arrived at the dance studio for Laura’s lesson, I parked on the side of the one-way road and told her to have a good time! As she got out of the car, she looked left for oncoming traffic. The road is lightly used and as usual, it was clear.

In the very moment that she started to run across the road, a car came from the right, heading the wrong direction down the one-way road. Laura was directly in front of the car when the driver slammed on the brakes, abruptly stopping within inches of her. As you can imagine, it was a frightening experience for everyone.

It happened so fast there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it. For days after, I kept remembering and talking about it. “What if she had been hit by the car?” “What if she had been hurt?” “What if she had been killed?” Those questions helped me see how fragile life is but they also became a turning point for how I looked at negative situations. Although a very scary experience, I fixated on the idea it could have been much, much worse with more profound consequences!

I realized looking at other possible outcomes when things don’t seem to be going right could shift my perspective. People can find it hard to stay positive; when something goes wrong we complain and worry. But, what if whatever is happening is the best outcome? It has turned into a game for me. If something happens and I trust that it’s the best outcome, then I wonder what the alternatives could have been.

This little “what if mind-game,” as I like to call it, helps me be calmer and more accepting when things don’t go right or the way I want them to. Maybe what’s happening or has happened is a much better outcome that what might have been.

I was on a plane that aborted on takeoff, just at the moment we should have lifted into the air. As the plane swerved to a stop, my mind was already thinking about the possibility of my trip being delayed. But having years of practice using my “what if” game, my thoughts quickly went to “what if the plane crashed because we took off rather than aborting?!” I would much rather be on the ground from on aborted flight than on the ground from a crashed one! Although my trip could be delayed, I would still be here to do it!!

Walking into my Lily Dale house to see water pouring out of the ceiling was shocking. Wallboard and insulation lay in a sodden heap on the flooded floor. The damage was significant. But, there were some obvious positives that I immediately recognized:

It looked like the water had only been gushing for a couple of days so it was fortunate I went to the house that day, rather than a week later! “What if I hadn’t gone to the house then?”

The damage was in a part of the house that still needed to be remodeled and that area needed to be gutted anyway; we would just do it sooner rather than later. “What if the pipe broke in the area we had already remodeled?”

Although sometimes we never find out why it’s a better outcome, in the case of my broken pipe, I did find out.

If that pipe hadn’t broken I wouldn’t have found the extension cord that was hidden in the insulation in the ceiling, barely plugged into an outlet I had no idea was there. “What If the pipe hadn’t broken and the house caught on fire?” Wasn’t it a blessing the pipe broke when it did and that the damage revealed a greater possibility of loss? So rather than getting upset about the broken pipe and damage, I was fine with it when I considered the alternatives.

The next time something doesn’t go the way you want, big or little, try my “what if” game. It could help you appreciate what you do have, because the alternatives could be much worse. We frequently don’t know the whole picture and this helps me trust that whatever is happening is for the best.

 

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16 Comments to What if?

  1. Elaine
    December 17, 2016 11:53 pm

    I started using the “what if” mindset. It’s only been a few days but I can already see how much it helps to calm yourself down and look a things from a different perspective. Thanks Colleen!

  2. Mystik Viking
    December 17, 2016 4:45 pm

    Awesome game Colleen!

    I’ve heard a similar version called Changing Your Perspective. It goes like this:

    Prepare for the worst and expect the best.

    Say, you desire something.

    Prepare for the worst – you don’t receive it.

    Expect the best – doesn’t matter if you receive it or not because you already prepared for the worst.

    Great game to teach kids!

    Play with it : )

    • ColleenV
      December 18, 2016 5:43 pm

      Hello!! I love the variations out there! It’s important to keep that “expecting the best” attitude so we don’t go down the negativity hole. 🙂 Thanks for posting that version. It’s quite helpful!

  3. Sue McWilliams Paganini
    December 16, 2016 6:14 am

    What a great suggestion! Today is the day I’m starting the IF if game!!

    • ColleenV
      December 16, 2016 6:09 pm

      Hi Sue! This game has really helped my stress level as well as my worrying. It’s so much easier to let go when I trust that whatever is happening is for the best. Have fun looking at things and shifting your perspective. There are usually no shortages of opportunities to do that! 🙂 Have a great day!

  4. Donna
    December 15, 2016 2:42 pm

    Thank you Colleen. Great technique for a much better perspective. I have often used something similar when held up in traffic or take a wrong turn. Instead of getting frustrated, I say to myself perhaps this was to avoid an accident and then I am thankful for the delay instead. I like your idea to apply this on a broader scale to all situations that don’t go as planed.
    Blessings,
    Donna

    • ColleenV
      December 16, 2016 6:07 pm

      HI Donna! Traffic is a wonderful place to use this! I would get impatient with a slow driver and next thing I know, I’m driving by an accident that just happened….and off to “what if” I had gotten here a minute earlier, I might have been involved in the accident. Then I have gratitude for that driver who slowed me down. I’ve used this for some big, horrible events. I look for a silver lining in everything, present or past, which helps me be more grateful for my blessings. Have a wonderful holiday!

  5. Norve Loomis
    December 15, 2016 11:44 am

    April and I were stopped at a red light I looked up and seen a car coming behind us fast and not stopping before I could warn April we were hit lucky we weren’t hurt but what if we both went to the hospital badly hurt the Young man that was driving didn’t have a drivers Lic. but the county sherriff arrested him it was a very bad experience

    • ColleenV
      December 16, 2016 6:00 pm

      Hi Norve! I”m so glad you guys are OK! It’s so good to be able to look at a situation and recognize the significance of how lucky you are! Maybe, by that young man hitting you, he learned something as well…because “what if” he had caused serious injury, that would have changed his life a lot more than getting a ticket for not having a license…or it may have stopped him from driving the “next” time, where something very serious might have happened…….by you getting hit, you may very well have saved someone else’s life. How do you like that perspective? 🙂 Have a great holiday! Hope to see you soon! Lots of love to you and April.

  6. Maureen Reigh Quinn
    December 15, 2016 1:34 am

    Thanks for this, Colleen. I do similar things only I call it “short circuiting the thought process.”
    Have a very Happy, Peaceful Holiday Season — I’m sorry I won’t get to see you this year!
    Maureen

    • ColleenV
      December 16, 2016 5:55 pm

      Hi Maureen! That’s a great description of a way to shift our perspectives! Our thoughts can create havoc if we’re not aware. Thanks for sharing that. I’m sure others will find it helpful too! Have a wonderful holiday season. I’m sure I’ll see you sometime! 🙂

  7. Denise Leszczenski
    December 14, 2016 10:52 pm

    My “what if” revolves around choosing life even if there are meds to take, many hospital visits,labs to do and more. I could’ve chosen to go to the otherside but I believe my being here has impacted others in positive ways. I’m still on my divine course even though not always aware of the difference I play.

    Right now I have the flu but “what if” getting the flu now increases my immunity for when I’ll be going to my son’s wedding in England in 2 months so I can be well then? Absolutely, I would choose now to have this flu and be free later.

    Many can be helped with this “what if” mind game. Thanks for reminding me that I wouldn’t have met you (Colleen) if not for the “what if” of choosing life!

    • ColleenV
      December 16, 2016 5:52 pm

      Hello Denise! You continue to be an inspiration to me and others! I’m so happy you chose life. I love your “what if” having the flu increases your immunity! Awesome! A positive perspective than can only help! Thank YOU for being in MY life! Lots of love to you!

  8. CathySue
    December 14, 2016 9:37 pm

    INSPIRING, events in our lives make us think. I yry yo be grsteful and trust in GOD.
    Rhank you for this emsil. I kinds was shifting the orher way.

    • ColleenV
      December 16, 2016 5:50 pm

      Hi CathySue! Thank you! Our events certainly do make us think. It’s not always easy. The key seems to be trusting in God, that whatever is happening is for the best. Lots of love to you!

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