“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.

~ Abraham Lincoln

Do You Suffer From ‘What if’ Syndrome?

Tolerating uncertainty is an almost impossible task for a lot of people. Insecurity in relationships, work, finances, and other life areas cause them to live with constant stress and fear. If you need to be one 100% sure something will turn out for you in a particular way, then you are setting yourself up for an extremely difficult time and potentially for disappointment. Change is a fact of life and with it comes the possibility of a period of uncertainty. People who fear uncertainty very often torment themselves with questions like:

“Can I be sure that she won’t turn me down if I ask her out?”

“Can I be sure that the meal will turn out perfectly?”

“Can I be sure that people won’t laugh at what I say?”

“Can I be sure that I won’t lose my job?”

These folks are suffering from the ‘What if’ syndrome.


Life happens

It might be an unexpected loss or a disastrous circumstance. These things can occur to anyone at any time and they can rock our worlds down to their very foundations. We all like to believe that dreadful things happen to other people but not to us. Being told you have a life-threatening illness, for example, can throw you into turmoil and can make you doubt your ability to carry on. The key that makes the difference to the outcome is how the individual deals with the changed circumstance and the uncertainty that goes along with it.

The effects of the ‘What If’ syndrome

The effects of the ’What if’ syndrome are debilitating. They limit individuals as they go about their normal lives. People plagued by the ’What if’ syndrome have a great tendency to dwell on past events – in particular, those events with a perceived negative outcome. People use a scandalous amount of energy in order to stay inside their comfort zone which demands that everything be perfect.

Once enmeshed in the ‘What if’ syndrome, your imagination goes into overdrive and you start thinking “What if …..?”  “I’m terrified that ……” Most things you imagine never happen, so what purpose was served by worrying about them? Most of the time there is nothing to fear, except the fear itself.

What’s the alternative?

Instead of succumbing to the ‘What if’ syndrome, why not decide to be curious and take action rather than being a passive observer or worrier. If we start to view life with a greater degree of curiosity we tend to become calmer. Life looks different when we become curious about it. Start by asking things like: “What could happen if I try X instead of Y as I usually do?”  “Would anything be better if I did Z?” Curiosity allows you to investigate different options in your head before putting them into practice in a real world situation. If you start to adopt the use of curiosity as a panacea for fear, you one day will realise that the fear is no longer present in your life.

Have you got what it takes?

It takes courage to make changes, to let go of the outcome, to start thinking about:

Who do I need to become to lessen feelings of uncertainly in my life.

What character traits will I need to develop to become that person?

What skills am I going to need?

What am I prepared to give up in order to reach my objective?


And finally, the big question…

What if things are better when I take a different path from the one I have been on?

I’d love to have your comments if you feel like sharing.


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