Regret. The possibility of experiencing that emotion keeps me employed. Very often people book time with me because fear associated with making the wrong decision results in a generalized change paralysis. My clients who present with this particular problem are clearly unhappy where they are, whether it’s their relationship, job or living situation. Making a change and having it be the wrong change seems worse to them than their current unhappiness.
During these particular sessions, clients often use a lot of sentences that start with, “But, what if…” The “what if” varies depending on the problem; What if I leave this job for another and the new job is more demanding? What if I leave him and end up alone because I never meet anyone better? What if I move and I hate the new neighborhood? My response to these somewhat rational fears is rather juvenile. In fact, it reminds me of something my kids would say. My professional, sagacious replay to the “What if?” is, “So what?”
Before you call the local authorities clamoring to have my licensed revoked, hear me out. “So what…” is a valid question that requires an individual to assess possible damage. If you make that decision, and it ends up being wrong, what is the fall out? In addition, “So what…? is a fear-inventory tool. What are the possible results of the decision that you fear? How could it all go horribly wrong?
The truth is, very few decisions in life are permanent. However, fear is like an abusive partner that isolates us from loved ones that can be the voice of reason. Fear allows us to easily conceive of how our decisions could lead to greater unhappiness while simultaneously having us conveniently dismiss the fact that we can always change our minds. If I move and I hate my new location, can I move back? If I change jobs, and I hate my new job do I have to stay employed there forever or can I change jobs again? If I leave this relationship and never find anyone better would I rather stay in an unhappy relationship the rest of my life?
The point of this blog is to get readers to look at the places in their life where they feel stuck and ask themselves what are their alternatives. When the alternatives become apparent you should fight the fear-based “what if” with “so what?” If your worst fears are realized, are you stuck there the rest of your life or can you change your life? Change your circumstance?
When we stop taking the counsel of fear, possible outcomes expand and become malleable. Fear lets us think that every decision we make leads to an outcome that is set in stone. Face your fears by asking yourself, “so what?” So what if you hate your new job, find a new one. So what if you move and realize you liked your old city better, move back.
What do you need to say “so what?” to today?