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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Do Your “What Ifs” Hurt or Help?

Harness Your Brain Power

Humans are fortunate to have the ability to consider consequences of their decisions and actions. The ability to figure out “what would happen if. .  .” may be uniquely humana function of higher reasoning. Our ability to think logically and to anticipate what may happen can be enormously helpful.

That ability to think through consequences several steps ahead isn’t just a skill utilized in chess, although it certainly differentiates between good chess players and bad. The ability to think ahead to consider the consequences that might transpire in each of our decisions can actually save our lives. It is not only part of the strategy during war, it’s also extremely helpful in parenting, running a business, keeping a marriage intact, and keeping you financially solvent.

When you factor in experience and a clear understanding of the consequences for each action, you have a very powerful resource right there, between your ears (and for some of us, under your hair). The idea is that you can utilize this ability to determine the consequences of success or failure at each step, and take steps to modify your actions for a different and more positive outcome. Your ability to think about “what if” allows you to avoid pitfalls and seize opportunities by making course adjustments. Sometimes these are small adjustments. At other times they are huge: when you quit a job or leave a relationship, for example.

Unfortunately, that ability to think “what if” can completely sabotage you. If your “what ifs” focus on catastrophes, or fill you with worry and keep you from following your plans, then your “what if” thinking can sink you.

The key is to utilize your ability to think ahead to prevent you from making mistakes that will bring about catastrophic results. For example, your ability to plan and predict would (hopefully) keep you from investing all your money in ventures that are highly risky. You’d think, “I could lose everything I have,” and you have pretty good likelihood that you might be right. This is opposed to starting a business and investing in it strategically and cautiously. You might still think, “I could lose everything if this business isn’t a success,” but because you haven’t put all your eggs in that basket, you can think through what you’ll need to do to minimize that risk.

Imagining catastrophic outcomes often goes hand-in-hand with anxiety. Your “what if” thinking goes off in the worst possible direction, and doesn’t do a risk assessment to determine really how likely that outcome will be.

Certainly, unanticipated catastrophes can happen. But there is sometimes a warning and a way to prepare.  When the tornado is heading your way, take shelter, and plan ahead of time where that shelter will be. Even when there isn’t a good way to prepare, you can do what you canpractice safe driving habits, don’t drive in blizzards, ice storms, or when you’re advised to be off the roads.  Choose airlines with a good safety record. Hire people who are experienced and highly competent. Take good care of your body and your health. Choose your friends wisely. Don’t do things your better judgment tells you to avoid. (Seriously, don’t jump off that cliff just because your friends tell you to). Don’t willingly put yourself in danger. There’s almost always something you can do. Use your brain to figure it out, even if you haven’t anticipated it.

If your “what ifs” tend to derail you, you may want to get some help to turn around those negative emotions or limiting beliefs. Strategic planning isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies. Individuals can do strategic planning so that they are heading for the outcome they want to achieve. That might be financial; it might be emotional; or it might be relationship-oriented. Use your abilities to help you create a way to reach your dreams in the easiest way possible.

If you need help with this process and harnessing your brain-power, feel free to reach out. As a personal and business coach, I help teach people how to harness their abilities to overcome self-imposed limitations so that they can live happier, more successful lives without the struggle. Reach out by email: Linda@InnerResourceCenter.com or by phone: (865) 983-7544. We’ll talk about your situation and figure out what you need to make your “what ifs” work for you, rather than against you.

© 2017 Linda S. Pucci, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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