“What if” is a common question that we ask. While it is meant to show that we are smart and have knowledge that other things could occur, it can also be a question that confuses us into inaction.
People who become consumed with “what if this” or “what if that” expend a great deal of energy worrying about things that they cannot control. Of course, change the answer to what if and three more ways of approaching something appear.
“What if” conversations proliferate when there is a lack of information communicated around a situation. I’ve seen this many times where people defend their point of view based on the “what if” story they have told themselves. Multiple people buy in to the world view of the best storyteller only to be disappointed when the facts are revealed and the next step is very different from what they convinced themselves it should be.
Where people make the biggest mistake is that they don’t stop to think about what they can control. When not having all of the information, it is always better to focus on what you can control or what outcomes you can seek that are within your ability to achieve.
Asking “what if” is very prudent when you are an insider, having both a lot of information as well as either formal or informal access/power to influence an outcome. Used as a test for objectivity, in your thinking, it can be quite helpful to thoughtful decision makers.
Answering “what if” too many times, as an outsider, never leads to productive action. Many times, even when we are on the inside, it confuses us into not doing anything because there are too many “what ifs” to solve.
“What if” stories make for great gossip. Yet gossip never leads to productive action. It simply is chatter that entertains us. What we never realize is that only in action can our efforts and thinking be judged properly over time.