By Ami Strutin Belinoff M.A., LMFT, CMPC
All of us at one point or another have found ourselves on the “What if Runway.” Some of us have spent hours, days or even years on this runway. Stuck, waiting, unsure and paralyzed by, what if? Most often when we find ourselves here the What If is one of fear, catastrophe, or dire indecision.
We can all relate to being stuck on the tarmac. If you have ever been on it waiting to get to your destination you know the feeling well. When we will get going? How is this going to affect all my plans? Will I have to be stuck next to this person in my ear for the next couple of hours? When will the kids stop hitting my seat? What If we don’t take off at all? Then what will I do?
It makes sense as to why we humans do this. Genetically, speaking we were preprogrammed to assess and calculate for future dangerous scenarios and then plan accordingly of how we would navigate them, a rival tribe, a wandering bear, or a dangerous weather storm. Frankly, the racial and income disparities are magnified during these times and put many right smack dab into this scenario. This is sad and all I want to do is wrap my arms around those people, pick them up and give them what they need to feel safe.
For athletes and competitive sports, we are in uncharted territories. Many collegiate athletes may be asking what if this is my last year? What will happen to my scholarship? What about our goals and dreams of our last year? Should I go another year? Some high school athletes are wondering What if I don’t get recruited? Professional athletes may be asking what will happen to my contract? What if I do not get resigned? I was going to retire and this was my last year, should I play another year? What if we lose the whole season? The questions can be endless.
When we sit on the what if runway too long we start to become the future negative forecast. Thoughts become emotions, emotions become moods, moods become character traits. Our future is now looking bleak because we have sat too long on this runway considering all the problems and the worst-case scenarios and we have become frozen as to what to do next or what is the right decision. This can leave us helpless, hopeless, and lost.
Again, it is natural to find ourselves here, but we are committed not to stay here. Most often I have found that when we find ourselves stuck or in fear it often comes down to feeling out of control. Issues of control can creep up. As we know we have to fall back on controlling what we can control. Trying to control uncontrollable situations is a recipe for a huge letdown and it can be exhausting.
Once you find yourself sitting on the runway, Get off the runway NOW! Your awareness of this is key. This is why we always preach awareness. Now is no time for inaction, panic, or disastrous thoughts. We can look at the possible scenarios of what may or could happen (pro’s and con’s list) these are still relevant, but it then is time to quickly move to step 2.
What can I control now? Write it down. It makes a difference when you sit and actually take a minute to gather your thoughts, reflect and write them down. Write down 10 things that you have control over in your current dilemma. You will quickly see that there is a lot you can control. Then pick 2 or 3 of those ten that stand out as having the greatest impact.
Assess your resources. Who can help me? Who has always been in my corner and has steered me in the right direction? Now is the time to call upon these people and TRUST them. Pick their brains, share your situation, and process it out with them.
Take actions on those controllable that you found. Make a simple easy to follow plan of working towards the things you can control. Remember s I m p l e. When we get exhaustive and too layered with these action items we may find ourselves back on the runway. Make them easy and achievable.
Step 5: Decision time.
When it comes to decision making during these moments it is good to press PAUSE as much as you can, but not so long that again you are stuck on the runway, pausing too long can become a mood (remember). After you have given a good pause it’s time to make decisions based upon what you have, again controllables. Trust is a big component here. You must trust that you will make the best decision given the information that you have in front of you. If you don’t feel that you have enough information then try to see if you can gather some more information, but know the information highway can go on forever. So gather what you can and then move forward. There is a sigh of relief when you know you have decided and now you can move on and be present and follow through with your goals and life.