What If...


I’m not really sure where September went to be honest. I usually write a post each month but somehow October has just appeared out of nowhere! Anyway, here we are again in the last quarter of the year. Time to turn over a new Autumn leaf and get going on those goals you wanted to achieve by the end of 2012.

However, what I find with clients (and myself, of course) is that when we set ourselves goals and we aim to change a few things in our lives, we end up worrying about the “what if”, so much so that it puts us off making any sort of change - “what if it doesn’t go according to plan? What if I hate it? What if I get lonely? What if I can’t afford it? What if I regret doing it?”

These are all concerns about the future, the unknown. It often boils down to a worry about the things we don’t appear to be able to control. But the truth is, we can control these things. We can take control and make sure it goes to plan, correct things if we do hate it/get lonely, we can find out now whether we can afford it, and there are ways to ensure you don’t regret it.

In an incredibly uncertain and unpredictable world, we have a need to try and desperately remain in control and we end up staying in our comfort zones in order to do so. Worries about the future, the “what if”, are of course natural but you can take control of these concerns. How?

Draw a line down the centre of a piece of paper. Label the left column “What If?”, and the right one “What Will I Do?”. Now, on the left, write down ALL the “what if” questions that are troubling you about the changes you want to make at the moment.

Then, on the right, take some time to write down a detailed plan of action for each concern, stating exactly what you would do if that worst-case scenario took place.

For example, you’re considering ending a relationship and you’re thinking “what if I get lonely?” What will you do to ensure that you don’t get lonely? Perhaps make sure you book out two evenings during the week to meet up with friends; maybe call a friend/family member each day until the feeling passes; maybe take up a hobby you’ve been meaning to try; stay at a friend’s house etc.

Another example might be that you’re considering a change in career - “what if I can’t find a job? what if I hate it? what if it doesn’t pay as much?” Again, list all the things you could do to ensure these things remain in your control e.g. what actions can you pre-plan that will increase the chances of you finding a job? What will you do if you don’t like it? You’ll probably leave and find another one, no world-ending drama. This part here is about putting things into perspective too. The exercise should help you realise that even if the worst did happen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, you’d be able to cope with it and handle it very well, just like all the other times life threw you a curveball.

So, hopefully, having done this exercise, you start to feel in control of whether the thing you fear (the “what if”) will happen or not. Even if it does happen, you will have a clear plan of action to follow. It is all in your control and these are your choices to make. In the end, the idea is that you’ll worry less because you know what you’ll do in the future.

Alice Stapleton

About Alice

Alice coaches those who want to change career but don’t know what they want to do instead. She offers Career Coaching designed to help graduates, early to mid-level career-changers, and parents returning to work gain a clear vision of what career is right for them, and how to achieve it. She is also an accredited Coach Supervisor, and host of The Career Change Diaries podcast.