Imagine that you have a dream to be a professional singer. Stick with me here. You have never sung in public before but your family and friends all say you’ve got talent, the voice of an angel. You gather up the courage, invite your tribe and head down to the local tavern for Karaoke night. This is going to be your big debut, you’re finally going to get the chance to have your dream become a reality.
I mean really, what’s the worst that could happen?
Well seeing as we are imaging, let’s go for it. You stand up on stage and your vocal chords freeze up. The sound that comes out of your mouth makes angels scream in pain. The boo’s and heckles start from the crowd. Someone video’s your horror and uploads it to YouTube. Network News pick it up for their weekly video laugh segment. People stare, point and laugh at you when you go out in public for months to come, there goes that screeching woman from that video they whisper. Your dream has become a nightmare.
Okay, on the flip side, what’s the best that could happen?
You nail it. Your performance is flawless. The crowd goes wild. The YouTube video that gets uploaded goes viral. The Tonight Show is phoning. Three music moguls are vying to represent you. You are an over night sensation. This is your wildest dream come true.
Both scenario’s sound far fetched don’t they but when we relate this fantasy to our own dreams you may realize that this is what we do to sabotage our chances to make our dreams become reality.
Imagining extreme outcomes of our dreams and goals lets fear seep in. Both possibilities are just as harmful. Imagining crazy what if’s both good and bad sends the message that you are not worthy of your dream. What if I’m just not good enough, will I just be making a fool of myself or what if I am an over night success, will I be able to handle the pressure?
There is nothing wrong with using your imagination to plan out your path to your own personal stars, in fact it is mandatory. How can you not nurture your dream if you can not visualize it? Maybe a better approach would be to not imagine a best or worst case scenario but to envisage a realistic outcome that you can built on as you reach for your dream.
What is the probable worst thing that could happen?
Your vocal chords actually do freeze up because you are so nervous, this is your first public performance after all but as you continue singing, it gets better. The crowd may be tough on you at first but clap politely when you finish. You practically leap off the stage and sprint back to the safety of your crew. They offer you their support because that’s what friends do. By tomorrow morning the only one who even remembers your less than stellar debut is you. If you are wise you will pat yourself on the back for having the guts to go out there and try. Then plan for your next performance, this is your dream after all.
What is the probable best that could happen?
You nail it. Your voice just gets clearer and stronger as your performance progresses. This is it, you are finally doing what you dreamed of doing and it feels so right. The crowd has taken notice of you up there on the stage and are rooting for you. Your friends are going crazy, they are your own personal cheering section. The euphoria last well into the next day. If you are wise, you will pat yourself on the back for having the guts to go out there and try. Then plan for your next performance, this is your dream after all.
The thing is life hands us all kinds of ups and downs, successes and failures, that is how we learn and perfect our skills. The failures build character and the successes move us forward. Envisaging fantastical worst and best case scenarios only serves to sabotage your commitment to the dream.
So what is really the worst thing that could happen? Letting your imagination fuel your fear so you don’t even try. What is really the best thing that could happen? Feeling the fear but going for it anyway.
Note: In case you are thinking that using the dream of singing professionally as the example is my unconscious mind’s attempt at admitting a secret desire that I personally harbour, let me be perfectly clear that my inner diva is more than satisfied with her own personal stage of my shower and the odd solitary car ride to showcase her talents.