What if…?

One morning, as I stood outside my son’s classroom, he said to me: “Daddy, there’s a massive tree in the little playground, and it’s bigger than a giant!”

“Really?” I asked.

“It’s AWESOME!” he said.

For young children, the world is full of possibilities and discoveries and excitement. Everything is, as the Lego song says, awesome.

But as we get older, we often stop daring to believe anything is possible, because we’re scared of failing – understandably a lot of the time. I think the opportunities for awesomeness do start to shrink once you have to earn money and pay bills, and feel the burden of responsibility on your shoulders.

We become ‘what-iffers’, forever worrying about what could go wrong if we take a chance on something. “What if it doesn’t work? What if someone gets hurt? What if they don’t like it? What if it rains?” And our fretting over ‘What if…?” ruins the moment.

In Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, chocolate-making genius Willy Wonka is flying his glass elevator through space, and is proposing to land on the famous Space Hotel USA. His fellow travellers have their doubts…

‘What if they come after us?’ said Mr Bucket, speaking for the first time. ‘What if they capture us?’ said Mrs Bucket. ‘What if they shoot us?’ said Grandma Georgina. ‘What if my beard were made of green spinach?’ cried Mr Wonka. ‘Bunkum and tummyrot! You’ll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that. Would Columbus have discovered America if he’d said “What if I sink on the way over? What if I meet pirates? What if I never come back?” He wouldn’t even have started.’

I’ve often been guilty of what-iffing, especially when the commentator in my head gets the better of me. Self-doubt can hold me back and prevent me from doing things.

We can either let ‘What if…?’ hold us back, ignore it (difficult), or turn it on its head, and imagine the possibilities instead of the worst-case scenario (even more difficult, if that’s not your brain’s default setting). A friend recently showed me this lovely little poem by Erin Hanson:

There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask “What if I fall?”

Oh but my darling,

What if you fly?

It’s four years since I posted my first Dippyman blog and overcame a ‘What if I fall?’ moment of my own. I still hear those ‘What ifs’ in my head every time I post a blog. What if nobody reads it? What if it’s no good? What if someone hates it and starts an argument?

But now, I know I can counter those ‘What ifs’ with a different kind of ‘What if…?’. So what if nobody reads it? What if it’s no good? What if someone hates it and starts an argument? What’s the worst that could happen, really?

It’s not comfortable, and it doesn’t come naturally, but it’s getting easier to think of the right kind of ‘What if…?’

I’ve written loads of times on the scary subject of depression, and nothing terrible has happened to me as a result – quite the opposite. I’ve even written about my faith (only once – I’m not that brave).

Many, many great things would not have happened to me if I’d allowed my what-iffing to stop me writing this blog.

What if I stop what-iffing?


4 Comments on “What if…?”

  1. aviets says:

    Well, I’m REALLY glad you wrote this post because you are the only other adult I have ever encountered who has even heard of “Great Glass Elevator,” let alone read it! I had a copy as a child and read it over and over and over again, so the lines you quote are burned in my memory. Thank you!!!

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