Have you ever noticed that when people start a question with “what if” it usually ends up being a negative question? For example, What if it doesn’t work? What if they don’t like it? What if the changes I make don’t work?

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The heavy cost of asking yourself “what if?”

The heave cost of asking yourself "what if?"Have you ever noticed that when people start a question with “what if?” it usually ends up being a negative question?


For example:

  • What if it doesn’t work?
  • What if they don’t like it?
  • What if the changes I make don’t work?

These are all fear based questions that lead you to focus on negative outcomes and what might go wrong.

You are less likely to take action to make change if you are only focusing on what bad thing might happen.

Asking “what if?” in this context keeps you stuck.  If you stay stuck you are not likely to get the results you want in any area of your life.

And that is a pretty heavy cost to pay just from the way you use two little words.

But here is the interesting thing:

If you turn the use of “what if?” around, it can a very powerful way to motivate yourself to move forward.

For example, let’s look at the three examples above again and turn them on their heads:

  • What if it not only works but it is a roaring success?
  • What if they love it?
  • What if the changes you make transform your life, work and relationships?

See the difference?

Asking “what if” in this context is much more likely to motivate and inspire you. If you feel motivated and inspired you are much more likely to take action.  And if you are taking action, you are more likely to achieve the outcomes you want.

Isn’t that option a hugely better one than staying stuck because you have kept yourself in a mindset of fear?

Remember, you get what you focus on.

So the next time you are mulling an idea over and you catch yourself muttering “what if this, that and the other?” have a look if you are using it positively or negatively.

Because which way you use “what if?” will influence your outcome and results.

Yes, two words can be that powerful.

Train yourself to use “what if” scenarios to see the possibility, create feelings of motivation and move you forward.

Refuse to allow yourself to use “what if” to nurture fear based thinking that will keep you stuck.

Don’t underestimate the power of how the words you use impact your mindset and the results you get in all areas of your life.

Download Your Free Transformation in Action Self-Assessment Workbook.

  • Dan Boudwin

    Couldn’t agree more with your post. It’s a funny thing about life… how the same phrase can either hold you back or empower you to take action. You can frame the same situation in multiple ways and create different realities for yourself.

    One reason people focus on the fear based questions is because it’s easier to quantify risk…what if I lose all my money?, what if I lose my job?, etc. On flip-side it’s much harder to quantify your potential success. Could it be a million dollars, 10 million?  What are all the positive changes that a person might make in their life, the people that will come into their life, the opportunities that will open up to them?  These things are much harder to predict so our human nature defaults to what we can be certain about and keeps us stuck.

    We all need to continually push ourselves to step into the unknown, the uncertainty of our lives. This is where the growth happens and where our success will come to fruition.

  • Hi Dan,
    Welcome to my blog.
    You have hit the nail on the head. Change happens outside our comfort zone so we need to learn how to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable if we want to move in new directions. I wrote a post on this a while back. Here is the link if you would like to read it:
    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your views.

  • Haralee

    Ali you said it! Words are so powerful and just changing it up in saying can change it up in thinking!

  • It is so important but often overlooked – the words we say to ourselves have a massive impact on everything from quality of life, creating change, fulfillment, confidence, achieving goals, relationships, to name just a few.

  • These are all such great tips. It’s all in the way we use words that make the difference between success and failure.

  • Glad you found it useful Rena.

  • Juliet Sylvia


  • You are welcome Juliet. Glad you enjoyed it.