The Power of What If

Written by Kathy Jacobson

Feb 26, 2024

In my own challenges of personal growth and as a life coach, I have observed that we have to start from where we are. Only if we acknowledge ourselves as we are can we bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

Once, when working with a long-time client from where she was, we discovered she was stuck in a belief of good and bad. She has an impossible list of criteria for being a good person, and if she couldn’t live up to that list (no one could) she was a bad person.

I asked her what it would feel like if there was no such thing as bad or good. She said it would feel good, easier, but she kept arguing in favor of her measuring stick.

Of course, we’re all in the habit of measuring, evaluating, weighing pros and cons, and trying to make the best choice. We think if we have all the facts, we’ll be less likely to make mistakes. However, we don’t make decisions based on logic; we make decisions using emotion. (Individuals who have lost the emotion centers of the brain through accident or surgery can’t make decisions. All options have the same weight to them.)

No matter how much data we collect or how we assess the data we collect, in the end we decide based on how we feel. Therefore, the measuring stick we use to evaluate bad or good will always be subjective – subject to our beliefs, values, stories, interpretations and judgments. And this is true whether we’re trying to buy a new car, considering whom to marry, deciding what we want to be when we grow up, or evaluating our own self-worth.

Imagine what it would be like if there was no such thing as bad or good? What if you could accept the world simply as it is and other people simply as they are? What if you could not only accept yourself as you are, but also accept that you have power greater than you know? What if you could look at yourself and what you want and say, “I am a writer.” “Í am a smashing success.” “I am the country’s top cartoonist.” “I am a healer.” “I am a perfect human being.” “I am in partnership with The Infinite.” “I am a creator.”

What if you could acknowledge the truth residing somewhere inside you that recognizes your personal power? What if you could accept such personal power even if that required you to acknowledge you’re afraid of it, intimidated by it, don’t know what it means, and maybe don’t have a clue where to start.

Because my client liked to know what’s ahead, because she liked to plan and be sure, she kept asking, “But what would not knowing look like?” I couldn’t answer that question. I don’t know what’s ahead for myself, much less for anyone else. But all the emotions of neutrality have that aspect of not-knowing. Here’s a partial list:

Acceptance

Admiration

Adoration Amazement

Amusement

Anticipation

Astonishment

Compassion

Concern

Courage

Curiosity

Excitement

Expectancy

Fancy

Gratification

Hope

Humility

Patience

Quiet

Sadness

Surrender

Tolerance

Warmth

Wonder

Transcend Measurement

Curiosity and wonder are among the most potent emotions when asking What if. . .

  • What if you prized curiosity over certainty?
  • What if you liked surprises?
  • What if wondering what else might be possible was fun?
  • What if being comfortable with the unknown took the pressure off?
  • What if some troublesome reality wasn’t a given?

More possibilities exist than you could ever know, or even imagine. When you’re neutral, you trust that expanse of possibilities. You’re willing to say, “No, I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out.”

If you struggle in any of the following areas of your life, consider looking at it from a different angle:

Self-Perception

What if you could look at yourself with curiosity and wonder?

  • “I wonder what it would feel like if I believed I deserved to be successful (or rich, or happy, or whole).”
  • “What if I could accept myself unconditionally?”
  • “I wonder what it would feel like if I believed I could sing (dance, build, heal, laugh, fly).”

Habits and Beliefs

What if you could look at your long-time habits and beliefs with curiosity and wonder?

  • “What if I believed I didn’t have to work my guts out?”
  • “I wonder what it would feel like if my emotional connection to this habit or that belief just evaporated.”
  • “If I could replace this habit with anything in the universe, I wonder what I’d choose?”
  • “I wonder what it would feel like if I let go of my frustration about ____.”
  • “What if life was easy instead of hard?”

Life Choices

What if you could look at your life choices with curiosity and wonder?

  • “What if I actually have the ability, skills and personal power to follow my dream?”
  • “What if I wasn’t afraid?”
  • “What if I truly knew I’ll be just fine?”
  • “What if I was okay with not being able to see around the next corner?”

The fact is, we can never know for sure the impact of our choices on others or on the future. We can never know what’s ahead. We can’t even know if we’ll be here tomorrow, let alone what tomorrow will bring. Becoming comfortable with not-knowing can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be distressing or scary.

Once, during a manifestation class, one of my students wanted a visualization she could use to become calmer about the future. Perhaps you’re familiar with the one I suggested: While driving at night, you can only see as far ahead as your headlights illuminate. They only go so far, but they always illuminate the same distance ahead.

My student immediately took the metaphor ever further. She said, “And if I stop moving, I’ll never discover what’s beyond that limited light beam. Moving into what’s possible requires that I give the car some gas.”

Accelerate

You may find that with curiosity and wonder you also experience anticipation and hope.

When you stay open and continue to be curious, the scope of possibilities will expand beyond your ability to imagine. The range of your vision will expand, almost as if you switched your headlights from dim to bright.

Hope from a neutral perspective produces the calm that all will be well. Anticipation creates momentum toward the unknown future.

Whatever particular area of your life is currently proving the most challenging, consider taking the following steps to move from struggle to neutrality

  1. Identify the scale by which you’re measuring. (Good/bad; for/against; me/them; easy/hard)
  2. Ask yourself, What if this scale didn’t exist?
  3. Be open to the possibilities that have been hidden by beliefs and expectations.
  4. Anticipate (don’t force) an answer that will amuse, astonish, excite or gratify you.

If you’re struggling with a health issue, maybe you’ll begin to see wellness as a possibility.

If you’re struggling with financial problems and release all judgment about your situation, maybe you’ll begin to trust abundance.

If you’re struggling with an unhealthy relationship and you start investing more acceptance, trust and humor, perhaps you’ll discover harmony.

If you’re struggling with your purpose and you step away from any self-imposed pressure, you may see yourself and your strengths in a new ligh.

I want to re-emphasize that when you resist, when you lock yourself into your stories, when you are afraid to go forward, you create your own struggle.

Deep inside, you know who you are and you know what you are for. As a first step, be willing to ask, “What if I opened up to that inner knowing?” “What if I were willing to be all the I can be?” “What if I let all the possibilities open up for me?”

What if . . .

More possibilities exist than you could ever know, or even imagine. When you’re neutral, you trust that expanse of possibilities. You’re willing to say, “No, I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out.”

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