The Magic of “What If”

Personal Perspective: Two little words can change your perspective on everything

Over a decade ago, I came across Alan Watt’s speech on “What If Money Was No Object?” It shook me to my core. To this day, I still go back to it whenever I feel stuck or a little confused about what to do next. Every time, it works its magic on me.

That is the power of these two little words: What if? They help you reimagine your life and get in touch with your truth. They encourage you to let go of all the outside noises and reconnect with your inner one. And that is the one you should listen to throughout your life.

Scientifically, there is limited research on this. There is such a thing as counterfactual thinking, which includes imagining how past events could have happened differently. For example, after a big presentation at work that didn’t go as well as you had hoped, you might think, “If I had prepared better, the presentation would have gone much better.” This helps you to change your behavior for future events if you so want to.

However, I want to focus on the use of what if to imagine possibilities for the future, not to ruminate over the past. It’s a way to open up your creativity and come up with options that perhaps you wouldn’t normally see.

Some of the most common what if questions include:

  • What if money was no object?
  • What if you had all the time in the world?
  • What if you didn’t care what others thought?
  • What if you weren’t afraid?

Naturally, for most of us, money is an object because we all have bills to pay. Equally, we all only have 24 hours a day to fill however we choose. Caring about external judgment and having fear is also pretty normal for most human beings. That’s why taking them out of the equation can help you to broaden your thinking and get really creative.

For example, over the last year, I’ve been working on my next book. It’s different from the previous three nonfiction books I’ve written, as it’s a memoir. That meant that I was in new territory and was nervous about fully exploring it. Yet, I still felt a yearning to write this book. So I did.

I operated from a place of inspiration and total creative flow to none of it at all. Especially towards the end of the book. With the final chapters left to write, all I had was crickets. Silence. A blank mind. An empty heart. No inspiration at all. I totally froze. Until I randomly came across Alan Watt’s three-minute speech on “What If Money Was No Object?” again.

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The what if of his speech hit home. It helped me realize exactly what had been holding me back with my book. I was nervous about the new genre I was writing in, how it would be received, and whether I should have just stuck to my usual genre. I was scared about how I would come across in a memoir and whether I fit into the current market trends. All of these things were holding me back from finishing my book.

That’s when I realized I had to ask a few what if questions of my own to get my inspiration back for my book.

These included:

  • What if I wrote without worrying if the book would be a bestseller?
  • What if I wrote without worrying about the current book market trends?
  • What if I wrote without worrying about how much money the book might make?
  • What if I wrote without worrying whether someone had already written what I was about to write?
  • What if I wrote as if I was writing for pure pleasure?
  • What if I wrote exactly what my heart was yearning to say?
  • What if I wrote as if I was telling stories to a dear friend?

So, that is exactly what I did. I started writing without worries and with pure pleasure. I told my fears they were uncalled for and started writing from a place of empowered inspiration. I started writing simply for the sake of writing.

Now, ask yourself this: Is there something you need to use the what if question for?

I encourage you to give it a try. It might work wonders.

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