A Question That Offers Instant Perspective: ‘What if It’s Easy?’
How will I handle that uncomfortable conversation? How will I get all this work done? How will I show up as the parent my kid needs?
Whenever a task in front of me seems insurmountable and I feel myself becoming more and more stressed, I’ll ask myself a question that immediately calms me: What if it’s easy?
For some reason, considering this possibility knocks me off the struggle bus and drops me back into the realm of control. Suddenly, I’m thinking, “Huh. Right. It might be easy.” And I’ll proceed to act as though it is.
Just the other day, noticing that the gutter above our garage door was overstuffed with leaves, I felt that familiar sense of dread. “Ugh, when am I going to get around to this awful chore?” I wondered. Right then, I caught myself and asked, “Wait, what if it’s easy?” I instantly felt a mental shift. “You know what?” I thought. “It is easy. I’m just telling myself it’s hard.” I then grabbed the ladder and unclogged the downspout, which was kind of enjoyable, actually. (That “sploosh” sound — it’s so gratifying.)
Does asking myself the question solve the problem in front of me? Of course not. But neither does presuming difficulty. Anticipatory stress, or anxiety triggered by an event or experience that has yet to happen, drains our energy and keeps us on the defense. Just as an ultraviolet light reveals bloodstains at a crime scene, asking yourself “What if it’s easy” shows you all the ways your thoughts are staining what you rationally know to be true — and that is that you can do this.
When I lie awake at night wondering how I am going to manage going back to school, working, and showing up for my kids without overburdening my wife or creating a mountain of debt for our family, asking “What if it’s easy?” breaks my unproductive thought patterns. It doesn’t diminish my challenging situation — my fears are certainly valid — but it stops the energy drain, reserving that fuel for something that will better serve me, such as creativity, resourcefulness, and emotional resilience. It allows me to notice how something actually feels instead of predicting how something will feel in the future. The question is an invitation to stay open to all possibilities, not just the scary ones.