What if things were really ok?
Two nights ago, I went swimming. It was an activity I had been looking forward to all day. I usually go quite late because it tends to be more peaceful. As I swim I can ruminate and contemplate. Tired and tense for the first 10 lengths or so. Instead of relaxing, I found my mind worrying about a number of pieces of work I had still to complete. The anticipated peaceful relaxing swim was eluding me. It was at this point I began to think about the “what if” coaching technique.
The “what if” frame
As I carried on, I remembered a technique I use quite frequently with clients. It is the “What if” frame. It’s a well-known Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique. It is used to help people tap into their imagination and explore situations they otherwise might consider being impossible. It is usually used to break down limiting beliefs. For example, a friend of mine loves his sales job. But confessed once he sometimes felt frustrated because never seemed to earn more than £50k annually. He had never exceeded this figure. He was convinced it wouldn’t get any better. When I asked why he thought that was, he explained he didn’t think the number of customers were available to exceed that limit.
I recognized his frustration because he had simply hit a limiting belief. I asked, “What If you were able to find ways to exceed earnings of 50k?” What would you have done differently, and what else could you do? He furrowed his brow and started thinking. What this technique does, is lift a person over the “I can’t” barrier, and helps open up possibilities, to incorporate ideas and suggestions, to achieve a different outcome.
Asking “what if” can be a powerful way to get your creative juices flowing. So when my daughter’s friend was planning her wedding, she floundered about the kind of venue she wanted and the colour of the bridesmaid’s dresses etc. So I asked her “what if, you had the wedding of your dreams, what would the surroundings look like?” This and questions like it helped her to begin to describe her highest desires. From there, she was able to begin to imagine and thus describe what would work for her.
When swimming, two nights ago, I didn’t need to use my imagination or break down my limiting beliefs. On the contrary, my imagination was working overtime, and it was my lack of limiting beliefs, (I know only too well the possibilities open to me!), that were actually overwhelming me and making me feel stressed. So when the “ What if ” came to my mind it was in a different context again. As I swam, I recalled the final way I use “What if” exercises with clients, which helps them to get in touch with feelings. Used in this way asking “what if ” is used to switch feelings. If you are feeling low because you are scared something isn’t going to happen, or things haven’t worked out in the first place, the state you are creating can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For example, you’ve applied for a job, but you didn’t get through the last job interview, and your confidence took a dent. Your anxiety about failing and the pressure you feel to be successful this time around simply intensifies. You worry about it for days beforehand, and by the time you get in front of the interview panel, you are so nervous, they can’t help but wonder if actually you are up to the job because you have been wringing your hands, and stammered your way all through the interview, simply because your anxiety took over.
If, before the interview, you had asked yourself the question, “What if I were successful at getting this job?” You imagine what it would feel like and get in touch with the joy, excitement, gratitude and enthusiasm you would experience. If you took that experience/state into the interview room, believe me, your interviewers would also have a completely different experience of interviewing you.
Ten minutes into my swimming session, I simply asked myself. “What if everything was OK?” I immediately stopped worrying, the knots in my back started to relax, and suddenly my state felt peaceful. As I swam on, I realized the worst thing I can do is not take my own advice. What was almost certainly going to turn out a most stressful hour of battling against feeling overwhelmed and anxious, completely switched? I realized if everything was OK, I could enjoy this hour, and simply unwind and relax. So I transformed the next fifty minutes.
Why not transform your next hour and imagine “What if, everything was OK?”