Friday, May 29, 2015

Fill your 'what if' pies with positive possibilities

Have you ever worried about the future by thinking "what if..."?

When most people do that, they are thinking about negative possibilities: "what if I lose my job?", "what if she gets angry at me?", "what if I get hurt?", etc.
After coming up with the negative possibility, they start imagining a sequence of negative events: "if I lose my job, I will have to use my retirement savings, then I won't have any money when I retire, so I will have to live on the streets" (you get the idea). 
Or they spend time trying to control their lives in order to avoid the negative possibility. In our example, the person would do everything they can to keep the boss happy, even if it means treating their colleagues unfairly, going behind their backs, etc.

Can you see how destructive it can be to focus on negative possibilities?

The 'what if' pie

Imagine your 'what if's are like pies that you cook and eat yourself. When you spend time imagining what could happen, it's as if you were making a pie: you come up with a negative possibility (mix the ingredients) and then you start thinking about the ramifications (baking). When you eat that pie, the digestion will consume your body's energy, just like worrying consumes your mental and emotional energy.

But it doesn't have to be that way. If you change just one part of the recipe, your life can be much better. You might be asking "what part? what can I change?" The answer is: fill your 'what if' pies with positive possibilities, instead of negative ones.

Positive possibilities

I have said before that we should have hope that the future will be good. Instead of spending our time and emotional energy with worrying, we should spend it on hope.

"But how do I do that, you may ask?" You can do that by changing the content of the words in your 'what if's. Instead of wondering about negative outcomes, start wondering about positive ones.

For example:
Let's say your spouse has been offered a job in a different city, and you are worried about the change it will bring in your lives.
Instead of wondering:
  • "what if there are no good schools there for my kids?"
  • "what if I can't find a good job?"
  • "what if I can't make new friends?"
Change your 'what if's to positive ones:
  • "what if I find a great school for my kids, and they make lots of friends, discover hidden talents and get admitted to an excellent university?",
  • "what if I find a great job, where I am well paid and have fun with my colleagues?"
  • "what if I get promoted in that job because they value my skills?"
  • "what if I find clubs and other opportunities to meet people?"
  • "what if I'm pleasantly surprised by the number of people who share my interests?"
  • "what if I discover new interests and make friends while practicing those activities?"

The unknown is full of possibilities. You can imagine anything you want for your future. The only limit to your imagination is yourself. 

It might be hard at first to remove some of the limits you have been placing on yourself. That is ok. Start by taking just one step beyond the limit. For example: if you think people in general don't like you and never want to be your friend, imagine that you will meet just one person who will be nice to you and help you with something. Then hang on to that positive possibility. Keep thinking about that scenario, instead of thinking about all the other people who might not be kind to you. Just keep focusing on the positive possibility.

You can do it!

I have done that kind of imagination and it has helped me greatly in focusing on the positive. As I have mentioned before, when you imagine that your future will be good, you become a happier person. Being happy (ie, having inner peace) makes it easier for you to cope with problems.

Another positive result of changing your 'what if's is that you will be searching for those positive situations. If you move to the new city and dread not making any friends, you will likely avoid socializing (because you are afraid of the outcome). But if you move to the city expecting to make new friends, you will start joining clubs and searching for people who share your interests. You are much more likely to be successful on the second scenario.

In conclusion:  Fill your 'what if' pies with positive possibilities and you are more likely to live a happy, successful life.

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