Happiness – Make it What You Want it to Be

There are a lot of things that we worry about, most of them in the what-if category: What if my presentation bombs?  What if my friend hates the outing I plan for her birthday?  What if having a baby strains my relationship with my partner?  What if my co-founder and I don’t see eye-to-eye on our product strategy?


And while all this worrying can sometimes inspire us to work harder, plan better, communicate clearer, bring out our “A” game, it can also – sometimes – debilitate us.  A lot of the time this fear and what-if’ing conjure up worst-case-scenario images of failure, humiliation, sadness, disappointment, stress, depression, any number of dreaded outcomes.


But we forget two things when we let ourselves be consumed by these fearful, imaginary futures:


The first is that F.E.A.R. more often than not is just False Expectations Appearing Real.  How many times have we feared doing, saying, wearing, having something, and then the reality was nothing like what we imagined?  How many times have our fears actually been realized with the intensity with which we anticipated they would?  I am guessing a lot less than we, well, feared!


The second thing we forget is that in most of our feared scenarios, we have a lot more control than we think, and we can make the outcome be whatever we want it to be (to a certain extent, at the very least).  


Afraid of how a new baby will impact your relationship with your partner?  Then plan for how you will make time for each other, schedule in child care for date nights, communicate your frustrations, think about how this new arrival could help you bond over a shared life-changing experience… and then make it what you want it to be.


Afraid of underperforming in a presentation?  Spend time practicing how you will deliver it, role play how you will respond to potential challenges from your audience, imagine yourself – gasp! – having fun doing the presentation… and then make it what you want it to be.


This sounds like pat advice, but it is truer than we let ourselves believe.  Our fears, and dreads, and worries are often self-fulfilling prophecies.  But what would happen if we allowed ourselves to perceive a different, better prophecy?  What would happen if we admitted the role we play in our own lives and decided we would create the future we do want instead of the future we don’t want?


We can’t necessarily guarantee the outcome, but we can sure as heck do a lot more than just worry.  We can focus on what we can control.  We can try our hardest to fight the fear.  We can plan.  We can put in contingencies.  We can act.  


And we can realize that more often than we may admit, we can make it what we want it to be.