Sometimes I wonder if Martin Scorsese lives in my head.
I am walking along, living my life, making my plans of all the things I’m going to do or not do and just when my story is going along swimmingly BAM my thoughts take some bizarre twist to the worst case scenario. We lose all our money, we are ostracized or homeless, someone gets sick or accidents happen and the people I love die. THE END.
I hope you can’t relate.
Thankfully, I have gotten to the point where I can anticipate my runaway imagination. Obviously, the logical part of my brain knows that all of these things are highly unlikely to happen- especially all of them together. But in that moment, the “what if” can be paralyzing.
“What if” I stand up for someone at work and it makes people not want to work with me or worse yet, “what if” I get fired?
“What if” I take 10 minutes for myself at the end of my work day before picking up my children and they are the last ones at daycare? “What if” that makes me a bad mom?
“What if” I actually tell a family member no and I start World War III?
“What if” I sign up for the gym and never go?
"What if" I negotiate for a raise and get told "no"?
“What if” I don’t join in the complaining at lunch and everyone thinks I’m stand-off-ish?
“What if” I try to do something I have done 100x before and I fail AGAIN?
What if we took the worst case scenario and used it to our advantage? What if I evicted Martin Scorsese and invited in George Lucas?
Let me explain.
I may never get to the point where my thoughts DON’T take the turn to the worst case scenario. So rather than trying to change the default processing of my brain, what if I could make it not a problem at all? “What if” I could have these crazy scenarios and not have them slow me down?
Here’s how to do this, here’s where George Lucas comes in. Instead of ending the story with the worst case scenario, with everyone dead in an elevator, make that the middle of the story. Answer the questions that you're thinking. What WILL happen if you tell someone no and they have a lot of drama about it? What will YOU do then? How will you act? How will you GET THROUGH IT?
Our lives aren’t Scorsese movies, they don’t just end tragically every time something bad happens. They are much more like Lucas films, a hero’s journey. The movie doesn’t end with Indiana Jones stuck with the snakes or with the Jedi being wiped out for good.
What will you ACTUALLY do if the worst case scenario does happen?
If you’re like me, you don’t spend a lot of time figuring out the answers to the worst case scenario questions. After all, it is easier to just not put yourself in the situation that would allow for that…
But at what cost?
The truth is, these worst case scenario questions come up when we are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone into something more. When we are trying to learn, or grow, or feel better by creating boundaries or being authentic to ourselves.
The cost of staying in our comfort zone is discomfort.
We don’t put ourselves out there because of the discomfort of “what if” and instead choose the known discomfort of staying the way things are.
“What if” we knew that no matter what, we would come through the worst case scenario?
“What if” we knew that even if it was terrible, we would get through it, like we have gotten through everything else in our lives so far?
“What if” being the hero felt so amazing that in the end, the journey didn’t seem so bad?
And then of course there is always the possibility that the worst case scenario doesn’t happen and you just missed out because of the noisy tenant in your head.
So next time you feel yourself hesitating to do something that you really want to do, be aware of who you are inviting to the planning session.
Sorry Martin, better luck next time.
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