When the ‘what-ifs’ multiply

Image: nomao saeki

I was going to write this post all on my own, but I realized Shel Silverstein said it best…


Last night, while I lay thinking here,
Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
And pranced and partied all night long
And sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I’m dumb in school?
Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pol?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there’s poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don’t grow talle?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won’t bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems swell, and then
The nighttime Whatifs strike again!

-Shel Silverstein

Famed principles-based psychologist Bill Pettit says that the ‘what-ifs’ multiply faster than rabbits. If you put two rabbits in a room, something might happen, but it takes some time for the actual multiplication of the rabbits to happen.

With what-if thoughts, on the other hand, they multiply instantly (as Shel so lucidly demonstrated above).

Like the neighbors dog jumping the fence into your yard, sometimes it helps taking a water hose to those what-ifs if you catch them trying to multiply on your lawn.

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I’m Jonas Ellison — a motivational messenger and transformative coach who writes daily here on Medium. To get my short vignettes in your inbox every day, click here.

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