Have you ever planned an exciting party for your child (or yourself) and despite the fact that planning is going well, doubts start to creep in?
What if no-one comes? What if it rains? What if people don’t have fun?
Then on the day of the party, people turn up, fun is had, guests were undeterred by the light rain showers and you all finish up with big smiles. “See?” you say to your child, “it all worked out, no need to have worried”.
When my kids start with the “what if’s”, I say to them “what if your moustache was made of spinach?” This is so completely ridiculous it helps remind them of the futility of worrying about something that may never happen.
As adults, we’re guilty of the “what if’s” regularly in life and at work.
When we finally get our dream jobs, doubt can kick in. What if they realise I’m actually not that good? What if I stuff up? What if I don’t like the job as much as I thought I would? What if I don’t belong here?
These thoughts are normal and we all have them. But when we let them take hold, they zap our confidence and make us anxious. They get in the way of bravely exploring the possibilities in our new roles, and impede our chances of success. “What if’s” are just not useful.
The French philosopher Michel de Montaigne once summarised this truth when he quipped:
“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened”
If you find the “what if’s?” undermining your confidence at work or in life, here’s what to do:
- Be your own cheerleader. Back yourself. Imagine things will go well. Allow enough time at work to do things well.
At the end of the day take a minute to reflect on what went well and give yourself a high five.
- Bring your best self to each day. Get enough sleep, look after your health.
Know your strengths and make sure you get the opportunity to use them every day. Make sure you can use your strengths in your job (Hint: if you don’t know what your strengths are, see a strengths-based coach!)
- Reflect on the worst-case scenario. If the “what if?” actually came to pass, what would you do? Write your answer down in this format: “If (insert the worst-case scenario), then I would (what you would do?)”.
If you get derailed, knowing what your intentions are gives you the confidence that if need be - you’re capable of rising to the challenge and coping with the event. This diminishes the power the “what if” has over you.
- Change your perspective. Reframe your difficulties or even failures as an opportunity to learn something worthwhile. What you learn will help you set the right direction next time, and improve your performance in the future.
In the end, you can only grow by moving towards challenges, not away from them.
We recommend you banish the confidence zapping, party pooping words that are“what if?” from your vocabulary! Those two words only rain on your parade, and chances are, they’ll never actually happen.
In the unlikely event they do happen, don’t let them undo you. Rather, be confident you’ll be able to cope and even grow from the challenge. And then you’ll succeed in at work or in life.
We’re in your corner
Debra and Kate