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What Is Instead of What If

One of my clients said that she’s practicing staying focused on “what is” rather than on “what if,” and I thought that was a great phrase and way to live. Living according to this creed, she’s making changes in her current life rather than agonizing about the future. What if you stopped obsessing about “what if” and made “what is” your primary focus?

There is, of course, nothing wrong with considering what might happen in the future in order to try to make better decisions in the present. In fact, this is the best way to problem solve. But, there’s a big difference between intentionally thinking about consequences and putting your life on hold or not experiencing it to the fullest.

Here are some examples of how these major differences play out:

  • Some people have little direction in life and only the broadest of goals such as wanting to be happy. They fantasize a good deal about things getting better for them. What if I win the lottery? What if I meet the right man/woman? What if so and so dies and I finally receive the inheritance they promised me? They have little agency or sense of urgency to improve their lives in the present and, instead, avoid the discomfort of feeling helpless about “what is” by thinking about “what if.”
  • Some people who want a romantic relationship or life partner have the mindset that the perfect person will come along some day. He will love them unconditionally, she will heal all their old wounds and make them feel whole. Rather than take chances with all the imperfect people out in the world, it’s more comfortable for them to believe that they’re biding their time for a good reason: meeting the right one
  • Some people believe that they can’t enjoy life at a higher weight. They don’t bother with their appearance because they believe there’s nothing they can do to look attractive at their current size. They intend to start living—really living!—when they drop the weight they want to lose. Instead of doing more now to enhance their enjoyment of life and self-esteem, they dream of a day when a thinner body will automatically bring them happiness.
  • Some people want to make life better in the now, but their “what if” thinking is about bad things ruining the good they try to do—so why bother. What if I lose weight and still get rejected in romance? What if try really hard at my job and still don’t get a promotion? What if I go back to school and don’t get my dream job? What if I change jobs and hate my new one? What if I try and fail?

Think about your approach to life. If it’s “What if,” it’s time to switch to “What is.”



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