Ethan Cross has some advice for people who worry over distracting self-talk: instead of always asking “What if,” start saying, “So what?”
Analysis paralysis, aimless daydreaming, catatonic catastrophizing, these are all “what if” loops. They get lost in the future and stuck in the past.
If we want to move decisively into the present, where all we can control is what we do next, we might want to say “So what” to those endless scenarios instead.
If we are helping others decide, the same applies. We can use a “so what” mindset to encourage people not to reject the existence of alternate scenarios, but to refocus on what they actually can control.
Here’s an example. If you want to take your kids to Disneyland, it’s ok to ask “What if?”
What if it’s fun? What if they think it’s dumb? What if it gives all of us cancer (thanks Prop 65)?
But, at some point, we have to say “So what” if this happens or that happens. At some point, we have to move from thinking to doing. We are either going to Disneyland or we are not.
“What if” is important for brainstorming. “So what” is important for taking action. We want to remember it when we, or those we are trying to help, feel stuck.
So, what are we going to do next?
Listen to Ethan Kross’s interview on the “How To!” podcast and check out his book, “Chatter: The Voice In Our Head, Why It Matters, and How To Harness It.”