Imagine you’re going somewhere with a friend. You’re already running late. They’re ready. You’re not.
As you pull on your jumper, scramble to find your phone, try to remember where you left your wallet and check that the dog has enough water, your friend is waiting.
They’re fidgeting. Hands in their pockets. Now crossed across their chest. Now on their hips. They’re tapping their foot. Sighing too loud for it to be an accident.
I feel like the person trying to appease his anxious friend when I sit down in the morning to write. I open up Scrivener and create a new document. Blink, blink, blink goes the cursor on the blank page.
As I sit there, sipping my tea, every blink of the cursor feels like a friend’s sigh. A sign of increasing frustration that I haven’t started already.
It’s not uncommon for the blank page or the empty canvas to be met with dread. As time passes the pressure to create increases. It’s a feeling that can and does paralyse many people when they try to build something.
But what if it didn’t? What if the blank page, the blinking cursor, was met with excitement rather than dread? What if the endless possibilities made you tingle with energy rather drained you of spirit?
It’s the difference between the normal and it’s opposite.
Consider another example.
Meeting new people. Now for some, me included, the idea of going to a party or a conference or an event composed entirely of people you’ve never met before is paralysing.
You’ll have to explain who you are, tell others what you do, ask questions about them. You might not get on with some of them, and what then? You can’t just leave, so you have to fake it. And what if they see through you and you get a reputation as fake but really you were just nervous and shy?
But what if it didn’t have to be like that? What if the chance to connect with others empowered you? What if you focused on how much you can learn from these new people and think of all the ways in which you might be able to provide value to them?
Or consider change.
For most people, radical change is scary. It means the unfamiliar, the unknown, the uncertain. You’re in uncharted waters and you don’t know what’s swimming about beneath the surface. Change is met with fear and anxiety.
But what if it wasn’t? What if setting off into a new environment invigorated you? What if, instead of trembling on the surface, you took a deep breath and plunged beneath the surface to explore the unseen vistas of the new world you’re moving into?
Now consider a principle that is close to you. An idea that has helped you make decisions and guided you through life. Perhaps you think that your success is attributed primarily to your skill and expertise.
What if it wasn’t? What if everything that has happened to you was pure serendipity? What if everything you had today was the result of a lucky break?
Take this one step further.
Everyone says, and agrees, that you make your own luck. Through determination, through hard work, through preparation, through dedication.
What if they’re wrong?
What if you work hard, pay your dues, do the right thing, help others, and still don’t get a break?
Beginning at an early age, we develop tendencies. The decisions we make and the paths we choose set a precedent for the rest of our lives, a precedent that is often very difficult to overturn.
Unlimited possibilities, meeting new people, being forced to change and considering the limitations of your most closely held ideas elicit similar reactions. They are scenarios that are met with fear, with resistance, with anxiety.
But what if, instead of the typical reactions, the reactions that are ingrained so deeply within us, we met these scenarios with their opposites?
What if the blank page excited us? What if new people inspired us? What if change was sought rather than avoided? What if the potential wrongness of our ideas was a priority rather than something we ran from?
Our lives would be very different.