“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” - Abraham Lincoln

Insecurity in relationships, work, finances and other life areas causes many people to live with constant stress and fear. A large percentage of people have difficulty tolerating uncertainty, which puts them at a considerable disadvantage. If you need to have one hundred per cent certainty that a thing will turn out for you in a particular and precise way, then you are setting yourself up for an extremely difficult time and potentially for disappointment. Change is a fact of life and with it comes the possibility of a period of uncertainty. People who fear uncertainty very often torment themselves with questions like:
“Can I be sure that people won’t laugh at what I say?”
“Can I be sure that I won’t have a panic attack during my talk?”
“Can I be sure that I won’t lose my job?”
They have the “what if” syndrome as a constant companion.
Disappointment is pretty much a foregone conclusion for them, since these questions could be seen as inappropriate, given the amount of change and resulting uncertainty that comes merely from the fact that we have been born and exist.
An unexpected loss or a disastrous circumstance may occur at any time and fear-inducing situations happen to everyone at some point in their life. These events can rock our worlds down to their very foundations and to a degree that we never imagined possible. We all like to believe that serious illness or the loss of a loved one are things that happen to other people but not to us. Being told you have a life-threatening illness for example throws you into turmoil and can make you doubt your ability to carry on. The key which makes the difference to the outcome is how the individual deals with the changed situation and the uncertainty that goes alongside.
The effects of the “what if” syndrome are debilitating and they limit individuals as they go about their normal lives. People plagued by the “what if” syndrome have a great tendency to dwell on past events and, in particular, those with a perceived negative outcome.
Fear of uncertainty is an irrational fear, and when magnified out of all reasonable proportion, is paralysing for the sufferer. In response to the fear, some people do absolutely nothing, making constant excuses for their lack of action, or they might choose to sabotage any action, thereby conveniently allowing themselves the luxury of laying the blame at someone else’s door while they themselves return to their status quo. They use a scandalous amount of energy in order to stay inside their comfort zone and change nothing!
Once enmeshed in the “what if” syndrome, your imagination goes into overdrive and you start “What if .....?” “I’m terrified that ......” Most of the things you imagine might happen never do, so was any useful purpose served by worrying about them in advance? Most of the time there is nothing to fear, except the fear itself.
Instead of succumbing to the “what if” syndrome , why not decide to be curious and to take action rather than being a passive observer or worrier. If we start to view life, and especially the areas where we need to be communicative, with some degree of curiosity we tend to become calmer. Life looks different when we become curious about it. Start by asking things like: “What could happen if I try X instead of Y as I usually do?” “Would anything be better if I did Z?” Curiosity allows you to investigate different options in your head before putting them into practice in a real world situation. If you start to adopt the use of curiosity as a panacea for fear, you one day realise that the fear is no longer present in your life.

Winnie is fifty years old, single and has worked as a secretary in the same company for over twenty years. Although highly capable and intelligent, she has never looked for promotion and never thought to change her role in all these years. She has total command over her job and is the person that everyone comes to for help and advice. Now, her mother, who is seventy-two has been diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease. Winnie has been aware of subtle changes in her mother’s behaviour over the past two to three years but now things have progressed more rapidly and her mother needs a great deal more care than previously. Winnie feels sick with worry each day, leaving her mother alone, knowing the amount of supervision her mother needs. Winnie’s friends and colleagues have suggested to her that she ask her boss for a change in working hours so that she can be at home before her mother goes to the day-care centre and when she arrives home again in the late afternoon. Winnie is reluctant but is persuaded.
The very thought of asking for a favour fills Winnie with dread. After all, she is the person who does favours for others, isn’t she? The “what if” syndrome clicks in. “What if he says ‘no?’; “ What if he thinks I’m asking too much?”; “What if he asks me to take a drop in salary?” “What if I can’t pay for the day-care?” And so on and so on.
Finally, in sheer desperation Winnie decides to experiment with some new behaviour and become active rather than passive. She fixes up a formal meeting with her boss. Prior to the appointment she is alternately hot and cold. She has been back and forth to the bathroom for the last couple of hours. Finally, the moment arrives. She enters on wobbly legs, sits down with her boss, and gabbles out her story without stopping to take breath and hardly knowing what she is saying. All her careful preparation and planning has disappeared. Her boss listens intently and then, much to Winnie’s surprise, says that of course she must do all she can for her mother and insists that she sit down and work out the timetable would suit her best. Once she has done this, he will adjust his own timetable, where possible, so that they can continue working together.
Naturally, Winnie is delighted with his response. But was it really so unexpected? Should Winnie have been so surprised? Her" what if" scenarios were way off the mark. Most people want to contribute to the well-being of others whenever possible. By not asking people for what we want and need at a particular moment in our lives, we potentially deny them the chance to do something for us.

It takes courage to make changes but to get started think about the following:
Who do you need to become to lesson feelings of uncertainly from your life? Do you need to be a more confident mother or wife, a better business leader, an inspiring teacher?
What character traits or values do you need to develop?
What skills do you need?
Think of someone who is already doing what you would like to do. What skills and values do they demonstrate?
What are you prepared to give up in order to reach your objective? It may be cream cakes or it may be the desire to be perfect, or to control every situation. It may be to stop dwelling on the negatives or magnifying the fears. It is sure that you will need to stop doing something. Sometimes it takes courage to be curious but ask yourself now “What if things are better if I take a different path from the one I have been on?” I wish you success.

“Every man dies, not every man lives” - Braveheart

Author's Bio: 

Vivien is a Creativity Developer, working with people from all walks of life. She started out working with performing artists, writers, musicians and dancers and then became aware that the habits, strategies and techniques that they use could work equally well for each and every one of us. So, now, in addition, she works with civil servants, lawyers, housewives, teachers, students - to name but a few.
From an early age she knew that communicating with others was something she just loved to do! But she was shy and communicating was not always easy. She worked and worked at it and became a coach and creativity developer as she had a big wish to help people become extraordinary in both their professional and personal lives. Someone once asked her “What would you most like to know about yourself?” to which her answer was “I would like to know what I am capable of doing, what I can really achieve.” This is the question that she energizes other people to answer about themselves.