"What if..." -- the two words that begin the world's most destructive questions. "What if I fall on stage?" "What if I lose the election?" "What if I say the wrong thing?"
I regret to confess that for most of my years, I've led a life of 'what ifs.' When I was younger, I constantly attempted to predict the worst consequences of my potential decisions. I continuously craved answers to questions that were frankly unanswerable. 'What ifs' trapped my mind in the times of the future, without allowing me to live in the present. I would sit in my room, trying to calculate and recalculate the outcomes of my actions without ever following through with them. I was hindering my own progress, entangled in my aversion to change.
Little did I know that as I was finding solace in the comforts of monotony, I was missing out on the "roller coaster of life."
I later realized that by asking 'what ifs' I was trying to eliminate the true essence of life -- surprise, adventure and uncertainty. Life follows a twisted path that none of us can foresee. So, why waste time on questions that we can't answer?
As I grew older, I slowly inched out of my comfort zone, and into the real world. I began to try new things and take risks, leaving behind the 'what ifs.' Without this shift in my life, I would never have been able to dance on stage or serve as the secretary of my high school class. On this journey to conquer my fears of the unknown, I've learned three major life lessons.
1. Live a life of 'oh wells,' not a life of 'what ifs.'
Every time I catch myself asking another 'what if' question, I always come back to this idea. The pain of losing is nothing compared to the pangs of regret from not trying.
In 8th grade, after months of training, I tried out for a nationally ranked competitive dance team. The auditions had been the only thing on my mind for weeks; but the night before, I experienced a sudden wave of fear and a 'what if' moment.
After some time, I pushed away my anxiety and reminded myself of my passion for dance -- nothing should stop me from trying. In the end, I did not make the team. And, it did hurt; but, I was able to walk away knowing that I made an effort rather than regretting not trying at all.
Through this experience, I truly realized that the self-fulfillment of trying, in itself, is something to cherish and esteem to.
2. Move from pessimism to optimism.
Instead of asking yourself "what if I lose?" ask yourself "what if I win?" Look at the positive side of things, and don't let the negatives hold you back from your dreams.
A few months after the try-outs, I learned of another dance troupe that was holding auditions. I had the choice of looking at this opportunity in two ways: "What if I fail again?" or "What if I make the team?" In the past, I would have instinctively gone with the first of the two options; but, this time, I went with the second. I thought of all the positives that could come out of auditioning again, and I took the chance.
3. Follow your heart, not your head.
When making a decision, use your instincts, and go with you gut.
I truly went with my intuition in making the decision of auditioning again. And, after days of awaiting the results, I found out that I had made it! I realized that if something feels right, you should go for it, without worrying about the possible consequences. Dance continues to provide me with culture, happiness, excitement and energy; had 'what ifs' held me back the day of my try-outs, I would not be able to enjoy all that I can today.
Rather than endlessly contemplating the results of your actions beforehand, follow your heart, and just do it. Don't get stuck in the past or future -- simply move forward and enjoy the present.