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Are These 2 Words Stopping You? How to Overcome Your What-if's

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on Jan. 11, 2015

Are you afraid of the unknown?

Is it limiting you and your opportunities?

Why is it there are some people who overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers, and others who can't stop getting in their own way.

Perhaps you know someone like Mark. Mark wants it all, but with no risk. He analyzes everything, and then worries about his decision. Every decision is arduous, then once made, second guessed.

Sometimes he’s paralyzed by indecision.

Recently Mark was looking to leave his current company. He wanted an opportunity to advance from a regional CFO to a COO of a larger corporation. He was personally introduced to a powerhouse executive recruiter.

But Mark never contacted the recruiter.

Meanwhile the recruiter was looking for COO for a very prestigious company. Mark eventually took a lateral transfer with his current company and moved to a safe position in the Midwest.

When Mark was asked, “Why didn't you contact the recruiter?” he said that he thought about it for a couple of months, but the “what if’s” outweighed the benefits of contacting the recruiter.


Mark didn't talk himself out of taking a job, he talked himself out of making a phone call.

Mark is someone stopped by what if's.

If you know people like Mark, challenge them try one small change - confront the what if's.

Here's a simple exercise to challenge your what if’s

  1. Write down your what if's
  2. Rate the likelihood of each one - remember they can't all be 100% likely
  3. Identify the worst case scenario for each "what if" and then ask, "so what?"
  4. Evaluate if any of these worst cases scenarios are permanent, un-fixable, or avoidable
  5. Replace "what if this went wrong?" with, "what if this went right?" and jot down a few of these possibilities.

Let's change our mindset and allow ourselves the possibility of success.

Many times the fear of the unknown grows with our imagination and seeing them on paper alleviates the fear. We may see that the “what if’s” aren't as likely, or there are other options to consider. If we're truly honest with ourselves, we may find we are afraid of embarrassing ourselves, or afraid of rejection.

We may discover the biggest barrier to success is ourselves.

What would it be like if we lived with fewer “what if’s”? What would happen if we stopped second guessing ourselves, what possibilities would we have?

What if...

Encouraged to break through? Here's a post by popular author and keynote speaker, Paul Smith

“Dreams” Finding the Courage to Pursue Your Dream

Looking for more solutions to break free from barriers? Read this post about kicking “I can’t”and challenge what you can do.

“Kicking Kick the "I Can't" Habit: You Can!

Check out the The Career Toolbox page for more practical tips and tools.

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