The Magic of "What If..."
Updated: Jul 20
It is pretty easy to feel disenchanted these days. The virus sweeping the globe is all-consuming, in all the wrong ways. And if you are like my family, we are being asked to just stay home as much as humanly possible. Kids are not in school. Parents are not going into the office. We are left with our crafts, our unsorted Legos and our wits. But we miss our routine and our friends and our life outside of our four walls. It is natural to sink into a bit of a funk, wishing for something different. Wishing for anything other than what is happening right now.
We can wish. That's an interesting exercise and I won't discourage you if it makes you feel good to make a few wishes. But wishing actually doesn't do anything. Wishing is just wanting for something else. We make a wish and then we turn around and things are just as we left them before we made our wish. (And some of us have the nerve to act surprised....) We've got a lot of time so - yeah - make a wish or two.
But maybe we are ready to try something better than a wish. Maybe we could employ a better strategy for using our time and our energy, one that might actually bridge the gap between what we have and what we want. Maybe we could proactively take that first step to making our wishes come true. Sounds amazing, right?
So, let me introduce you to two supremely magical words: what if.
I know. They don't seem terribly magical. They aren't. At least not on their own. You've heard these words before. They have been just sitting there waiting for the appropriate application. And here it is. Use them in place of a wish. Here's how it works:
Suppose one of your wishes is to have more friends. So you say "I wish I had more friends." There is nothing wrong with wishing for more friends, or wishing for meaningful connections with people. So you say your wish and there you sit, waiting for something to change. And then you move on to the next thing. A few days later that wish pops up again - and yet again nothing changes. It is possible that you will meet a new friend. It is possible that you will attend an event and make a connection. But that wish that you left hanging in space will have had nothing to do with that.
So let's try a different approach. Instead of "I wish" ask yourself "what if I had more friends?" Ask the question. And go ahead and answer it, too. What IF I had more friends? Well, I would love to talk about politics. I would probably spend less time indoors because friends that love going out to share drinks and dinner sounds marvelous. More friends means less time alone. And I don't really love being alone. And if I don't love being alone and I want to make more friends then what could I be doing to make that happen? Maybe I can participate in a Zoom happy hour planned by colleagues. There is a work colleague that is always saying hello - she might be a place to start to build a new connection. And then I remember that my one good friend Charlotte invited me to her virtual book club but I declined so I could...
A wish lands like a lead balloon. It changes nothing. "What if" starts those wheels a-turning, and before you know it, you have reasons for why you want what you want, and specifics about how you might be able to get closer to what you want, and potentially a small path forward. Anything is better than nothing. "What if" forces you to see that time and time again.
Make no mistake. Asking "what if" is very different than "If only....". One sees the possibility in doing or seeing something in a new way, while the other laments loss, the passage of time, or an opportunity wasted. One allows us to remember that change is always an option. The other sees change as too little, too late. One is powerful. The other - not so much.
What if I loved my clothing?
What if the world were a kinder place?
What if I could always be happy?
What if I had a better job?
What if I ran a marathon?
What if I cleaned my closet out?
What if I stopped yelling?
What if I tried harder?
"What if" questions open up those doors of opportunity that everyone talks about. When we allow ourselves to just consider another way, even something that seems so outlandish at first, we open our minds to the difference a day can make. When we ask ourselves the better questions and listen to our own answers, we are doing the hard work that it takes to grow and evolve, and eventually, succeed. Wishing is fine. But when we question the status quo we are choosing to do more with our talents and our time. And we already know how important choices are when it comes to the direction our lives take.
There is no limit. Use your words. What if you find a little magic?