Take a second to think of the last time you were stressed out and plagued by what ifs? "What if I miss my flight?" "What if I hit 'reply all' instead of 'reply' on that last email?" "What if no one likes the dessert I made for the party?" "What if I made the wrong decision to end my relationship?"
Now think about what ended up happened on an occasion when your what if came true--when you did miss your flight, you did hit reply all, your dessert wasn't good, and you did break up with your partner too hastily? What happened?
You probably either caught a different flight or stayed overnight; your email overshare was probably problematic, embarrassing, or not a big deal; people probably ate your dessert or you went to the corner store to pick up ice cream instead; and you probably either got back together or got over it eventually. That is, something happened.
In her book "Real Happiness at Work," American Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg writes that when her mind sets off a cascade of anxiety about a hypothetical scenario, she uses the phrase "something will happen" to regain her calm. I love this because it's true 100% of the time! Something always happens.
I wish I had known about something will happen last Christmas: I was taking a long trip with a connecting flight halfway across the continent and there was a blizzard on the eve of my departure. My mind frantically reiterated "What if my flight is cancelled what if my flight is cancelled what if my flight is cancelled??" As always, the answer was that, if the flight was cancelled, something would happen: I'd get a later flight, I'd fly the next day, I'd cancel the trip altogether, but no matter what, something would happen. And it did.
Something will happen also works for bigger issues. One of my friends has trying to get pregnant for a year with no luck so far. She frequently topples into the rabbit hole of "What if I don't get pregnant this month? What if I never get pregnant? What if two or three or five years from now, I still haven't gotten pregnant!" The answer is that something will happen. It might be eventual pregnancy. It might be a decision to consider adoption. It might be a change in how important pregnancy is to her. But no matter what: something will definitely happen.
Something will happen is the answer to any what if question. Next time you're fretting about being late, making a mistake, or any other what if scenario, answer your own question.
Does it help?