Thoughts on “What If?”

I was at a conference this week and the entertainment portion of the conference was a performance (see posted video) by Mike Rayburn. If you have not had a chance to watch this, I highly recommend it. He is an entertainer/motivational speaker. I have listened to many motivational speakers in my life and I have to say that his very simple message has been really nagging at me. He says to ask yourself a very simple question – “What if I Could?”. Of course there is the companion statement of “This is Why I Can’t”.

As I am approaching my 45th birthday, I am (probably like many others) wondering “What the heck I am really doing here?”. I am the oldest sibling and I can tell you that I am a textbook oldest child: natural leader (or control-freak, pick your poison), high-achiever (I had to have straight A’s – was it really necessary?), organized (I label everything!), on-time, know-it-all (I have finally realized I don’t know everything), bossy (ask my sister), responsible (to a paralyzing degree), and a people pleaser. My picture should be in every sibling birth order book out there. My point, is that my primary question/statement was the second one stated above – I always thought of the reasons why I couldn’t do something. I am a professional worrier of the highest order and it definitely has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. The RESPONSIBILITY of life has begun to paralyze me.

I am going to digress a bit. I have always worked 40 hours (or more) outside the home until 2007. Being good at everything (work and home) was impossible (as we all know) and was also adding a stress to my life that was becoming too much. My husband bought a 49% stake in a company in 2005 and by 2007, it was clear that one of us had to cut back and be more available to our three children. At the time, I was no longer satisfied with my job and it made sense for me to be the one to do it. I had no idea how this decision was going to impact my life – I think I honestly suffered a “mini” depression. I didn’t realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in my job. I think the depression occurred because I had been too busy to think about the question, “What am I really doing here?”. Now, I had TOO much time to think about it. People were asking me “What would really like to do?”. I had no idea how to answer that question! I had no hobbies because I was working all of the time. Here I was, 42 years old, and didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. It has now been three years since I decided to work part-time at a less stressful job which has been very good for me, but I still feel a little aimless. I have always admired those that seem to know exactly what they want to do in their lives. My husband knew he wanted to be an architect from 7th or 8th grade and, now, he owns an architectural firm. Where does that knowledge come from?

Mike Rayburn’s message has been playing in my head like an endless loop. Can you train yourself to start thinking in a new way at 45? This is going to be a real struggle for me. I’m the one that thinks of all of the ways something can go wrong, that has 6 months of expenses saved for the imminent disaster that is about to happen at any minute, that is the endless list-maker, that has a compulsive need to organize, etc. I’ve always considered myself “practical”, but maybe that description is really a little too benign.

The message is to think of the most outrageous “What If?” that you want to accomplish and write it down. He says that once you write it down then you need to do something actionable toward the “What If” and get the ball rolling. Even if it is baby steps. Now, what is my “What If I Could?” Yikes, that is a scary question. I’ve been mulling it over since Monday after his presentation.

I’ve always told my kids that if we won the lottery (of course, first you have to play!) that I would take some of the money to start a fund or endowment for single parents that are trying to get off of welfare. It seems that one of the biggest barriers for women and men in this position is affordable quality daycare. Why couldn’t we subsidize a quality daycare facility for these people and their children? The single parents would be charged by the ability to pay – it would be based on a % of income. The women and men would have to go through a welfare-to-work program to qualify for the subsidized daycare. I know the state of Indiana has this service, but it organized by the state government. I think private enterprise could probably do it better. However, this seems to be a big “What If” to tackle right away.

I did start taking oil painting lessons about a month ago – that is a huge change for me. I’m a complete left-brain thinker. I have really enjoyed my painting classes! For me that was step one.

Step two was starting this blog – I thought that maybe writing it down will motivate me to start this project of re-training my brain.

My goal this week is start with baby steps – when one of my friends, family or co-workers brings up an idea, I want to be the one that says “How can we make that happen?”. I think it will take a while to retrain my brain! Clearly for this to work, I will have to do this on a continuous basis, thus the struggle begins. I guess this is like any change you make, exercise, diet, etc. I will need to stay committed for it to work. Here I go. . .

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on “What If?”

  1. I am so excited for you. Now, let’s think of some ways we could apply your new way of thinking to our family trip in SC…put each member in your family in charge of packing their own things (even Jack!) and don’t make them lists and just see who forgets what and how it won’t really matter. Bring an canvas – or whatever you use and paint a sunset. xoxoxo


  2. Jen,

    I have always known that you are a special person, but I so admire you for taking this road at this time in your life. You and I are so much alike, but I haven’t given as much thought to “why am I here?” as you have. I need to work on being more open to looking at things from the perspective of making it happen instead of why it might not work. I love you dearly.

    Love, Mom


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