The ‘What If’ Factor

Hypotheticals are great in the incubation stage of an idea. They’re how an idea transforms from a passing thought to something tangible. Not to mention they’re also a huge block in my decision making process.

At what point does an asset also serve as a detriment? It seems innocent enough. For me, the question always arose during times of frustration when I knew change was needed. In the summer of 2011, I was attending college in Chicago. Young and miserable with my current location, I always asked myself one question but never seemed to take any action.

“What if I transferred schools?”

That seemed like a good start. A year later, I found myself with no leads of any new universities as I sat in yet another lecture at a school I no longer wanted to attend.

When this pestering question starting spilling into other areas of my life, I knew I had a bigger issue to address. Take the fear factor out of the questions, and “what if” actually becomes the start of a brilliant beginning. When you beginning questioning the status quo, it’s an opportunity to actively fix an issue. That’s the irony. The questions that can pull you out of a rut can simultaneously be the one that leads to a long train of anxiety. And when anxiety sets in, your brain can often hypothesize every possible negative outcome of the situation.

If you find yourself feeling even more lost after asking the ‘what if’ of a situation, it’s a clear sign that you’re trapped in a black hole of ambiguity. And you need to jump out of that loop, fast. Eventually, I began researching schools and scheduling interviews with advisors. I even took a college tour during my spring break. My gut was sure of my decision to make the switch, but before I could make anything official, that “what if” questions came ringing in. Because of that one incident, I delayed my decision to a mere 3 months before classes started at my now alma mater of the University of Tennessee Knoxville. It sounds like common sense but how many times have you stalled an important decision in your life for the sake of reflection?

Eventually, the amount of worrying you spend towards making a decision becomes a factor in itself. The great news about this process is that science is on your side. An article posted on Psychology Today states that “The conversations you have with yourself have a direct impact on how you feel and how you behave.” However, the article further explained that you can reverse these negative thought patterns by using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

These practices include replying to negative statements with positive ones, creating personal mantras, and going the extra mile to prove your overbearing Negative Nancy wrong. Through consistent positive reinforcement, your brain will strengthen its muscle memory and help you think more positively, permanently. No, what ifs, ands or buts.

This story was written by Beauty Anthropology Founder and Editor-in-Chief Victoria Wright. Interested in submitting your story? Contact us!

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