Awakening A Sunny "What If...?"

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

For the audio version of this post, listen here:

I wrote a post back in 2014 that was included in the chapter on Awakening in my book On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary called “I’m Not Worthy.”

In it, I talk about the terrifying monsters known as “The Mights,” “The Maybes,” and “The Coulds.”

The dark underbelly of the sometimes-freeing question “What if…?!”, the Mights, Maybes, and Coulds don’t free us at all—instead, they have the potential to paralyze us completely.

I might not be able to pay my mortgage this month. Maybe my boss will hate my new idea. I could get my mom sick if I spend time with her right now.

It could snow again. There might be a new variant of COVID. Maybe I won’t get into college.

Maybe I won’t be able to help my child navigate e-learning. He could break up with me. I might never travel again.

Ohhh, they are relentless. And once they start, they grow, too.

Maybe I won’t be able to help my child navigate e-learning and so they might fail their grade and they could get held back, and then they might not ever catch up, and so they could lose their friends and all interest in school, and then they might not ever get into college…. (and on and on it goes—our minds, a brutal relentless march straight into despair).

That this happens is, I think, inevitable.

How we tackle it, though, is not.

The way I see it, we have two choices here.

  1. We could let the mean old Might, Maybe, and Could Monsters march all over our brains, wreaking havoc and destruction, and becoming paralyzed by all the “What If…?” horrors that are potentially lurking just around the corner.


  1. We could replace those Monsters with the other kind of “What If…?” questions—the ones facing the light.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m really craving some light right about now.

So, here’s how we do this. (And I must warn you: this exercise is quite easy to do, and incredibly difficult to actually believe.)

First, we have to activate our imagination and start to name the beautiful “What If…?”s.

What if I find a payment plan for my mortgage? What if I come up with an innovative new idea that helps our work productivity? What if I have amazing and safe quality time with my mom? What if my child and I figure out her e-learning together? What if I have the opportunity to go visit a friend? What if Spring actually comes early this year, despite what that stupid Groundhog said?

So- imagine this as your brain’s “Find and Replace” function: search for every negative “What If…?” and replace it with a positive one.

Again, like I said—that’s the easy part to do.

But in the beginning, of course you won’t believe any of it. Every time you perform a “Find and Replace,” you’ll be rolling your eyes at your positive “What If…?” replacement. You’ll find it hard to keep a straight face, or stop yourself from saying “yeah, yeah, whatever.”

But don’t let your inner cynic stop you from the exercise.

Because, as Tony Robbins’ says “energy flows where attention goes.”

Meaning, whatever you focus on gets bigger. So, if you intentionally and consistently shift your focus away from the negative “What If…?” monsters and toward the sunshiney positive “What If…?s”, eventually you will start to actually see more of the positive. More than that, you’ll start to actually believe more of the positive.  

And in the end, of course, the only thing we know for certain is the right here, right now, no “ifs” about it present.

So, how are you spending this precious present? Are you paralyzed by the dread of what might, maybe, could be lurking? Or are you delighted by the possibility of what’s next, while standing squarely in the what’s now?

Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.