Do you find yourself asking, “What if…” when facing a scary situation? You know, like, trial?
Recently I had a major scare myself and found my brain going to all sorts of crazy places.
But I remembered what I knew about the brain, and got myself on the right track. And you can too.
Give this episode a listen to learn more.
EPISODE 188 TRANSCRIPTION
Well, hello. Hello. Welcome to another episode. Sari de la Motte here with you. And today we're talking about What To Do If You're Constantly Asking 'What If?'.
So a few weeks ago I found a lump, and this is concerning because with my type of breast cancer that I had, which was HER2 breast cancer, meaning it was very, very aggressive. I may have shared with you that when I was diagnosed, they found the original lump was four centimeters when I was in the chemo chair three weeks later and it was now 10 centimeters. So that shit was growing fast. So HER2 is an aggressive breast cancer. I was also diagnosed at stage three right off the bat. And my particular cancer, if it comes back, comes back within the first three years. So this was very concerning that I found this lump and I made a doctor's appointment, of course, to have it checked out and he said, well, I wouldn't worry.
But as I told my husband as we left the appointment, that's what my other doctor said, the doctor who found the lump, it was so large and I just had a mammogram a year prior that he was just, well 18 months prior that he was like, there's no way something this big could be cancer unless it was super aggressive, which of course is what it ended up being. So that didn't help me. He did have me go have an ultrasound. So I went to have the ultrasound and they found a three centimeter mass. No one likes to hear mass. And in fact, after she did the ultrasound, she said to me, okay, you can sit up but don't get dressed. I'll be right back. And I've heard that before. The last time that happened, they came back and told me that it was most likely cancer.
So of course I'm sitting there running through all of the what if possibilities. And then I had a biopsy three days later where the radiologist told me I had a 50, 50 chance of it being cancer. And he was also very, very sympathetic and kind of like, we're so sorry for you, you cancer person, you. Which is what I told my husband. Which my husband said, I didn't see that. But of course my brain was doing all of the things. I mean, where did my brain go? It went to what if, what if this is cancer and I have to do chemo again. I don't know that I can go through that again. What if it's on the chest wall and they have to carve it out and I'll be all concave? I mean I already look weird without breasts. I mean what if it's spread and it's staged four now and I've got six months to live and I've got to do these videos for my daughter and to talk to her because I'm not going to be here and there's all these things I want to do before I die. Right.
This is where my brain went. And this is the same for you. Is it not? Should I take this case to trial? Well, what if I lose? What if my client doesn't get the help that they need? What if I spent all this money and I don't get it back? Or maybe you ask yourself, well what's the right number? I mean, you decided to go to trial, but what's the right number? And your brain is at it again. Well, what if it's too high? What if it's too low? I mean, what if the jury thinks I'm totally greedy? But if I choose too low, maybe I could have gotten more and I didn't ask for it. This is what our brains do.
What if, what if, what if.
Now, why do we do this? Especially since research shows, I don't know how they got this research, but research shows 99% of the things we worry about never even happen.
Well, to understand this, we have to go back and look at what we know about brains because you all have been on this journey with me about learning about our brains and how our brains are wired. And you know, if you've been listening for a while now, that our brains are wired to keep us safe.
So the question then becomes, how does being negative all the fucking time keep us safe?
Well, here's why. Your brain wants you to be prepared. Your brain doesn't like surprises. I by the way don't like surprises. I hate surprise parties. Never throw me to a surprise party. That shit is stressful. I know some people who like it, but I don't get those people at all. I don't like surprises. Uh-uh. Turns out the brain doesn't either. And here's why. Because surprises are dangerous, at least to the brain.
Think back to how we've evolved. Right. A bear coming out of the woods, a jaguar jumping out of a tree, right? Jaguars are in trees, right? That is scary, that is life threatening. So the brain constantly shows us these future movies, the upcoming attractions if you will, to prepare us saying, here's all the things that could happen. So be prepared.
Now since 99% of our what ifs rarely happen and it feels like shit to constantly be thinking through all of those scenarios, how do we stop this? That's what today's episode is all about. And here is the answer my friends, we can't. I know. It's a very disappointing answer. I understand that. There are things we can do and I'm going to tell you what they are in just a minute.
But just like the saboteur, and if you're new to us and you don't know what the saboteur is, remember the saboteur is a collection of voices. It's like kind of the thing that is creating the movies. It's the person who is showing you all of the bad things that could happen. It's the person that consistently is sabotaging all of the things that you are hoping to achieve or be in your life. Not because it's this bad horrible thing, but because change, surprise, any of that makes it nervous.
If it can keep things the same, if it can keep you not doing risky things, then it knows that you will remain alive. And that is the brain, it's number one job. So the saboteur is this person, so to speak, this entity that kind of holds all these voices. So we've talked about in previous podcasts how we cannot ever fully get rid of the saboteur. The same thing can be said for this what if thing, because it's a defense mechanism.
It literally functions to keep you alive. But all is not lost, my friends. Here is how or what you can do if you're consistently asking yourself what if? And all of us do this, right? There's nothing special or wrong about you if your mind consistently goes down the what if line of questioning.
Here's what I'm going to suggest you do. Because as I was going through this in the last few weeks, I tried to stop. Every time that, well, what if it's cancer and what if it's stage four and what if you're going to die? Right. When all of that kept happening, I kept saying, stop, just stop doing that. And what I realized is I couldn't stop it, but what I could do is do what if it's not cancer? What if you live until you're 95 years old? What if you get to see your daughter graduate high school? What if you and your husband get to travel the world like you want to do?
I had to force my brain to walk down that path. It will naturally walk down the negative path because that is literally how it is wired. But we have to create a new neural pathway, which science tells us that we can. Our brains are incredibly elastic. They can constantly change and grow. And I have to walk it down, almost force it down this other path. That's why that what if in the positive sense is so hard because it's not a well worn pathway. Our brains are not wired for that. So I had to consistently take myself down that.
What would it be like when I got to tell my friends, my husband, my parents, that it wasn't cancer? What would it be like when I got to tell the coaches here at H2H and my staff that it wasn't cancer?
What's that going to feel like? So yeah, what if its cancer kept coming up and what if you're going to die and all those things. But I also was forcing my brain to think, yeah but what if it isn't? This reminds me so much of something I learned.
I've probably shared this with you before in the Alexander technique, which is a technique that many musicians are trained in. It's actually a body technique and that's not what I'm going to talk about today. We had an Alexander teacher come and talk to us about nervousness when performing. And I thought she was going to share with us how to stop being nervous when you perform. But what was so revolutionary about what she said, and it so applies here to what we're talking about today, is she said, "Be nervous, but don't let the nervousness completely take up all of the space."
Leave space for the other things you're also feeling, like excited that you practiced to a point that you can now perform, passionate about the music that you've learned, eager to share it with those who are in the audience, proud that you got to this point.
Meaning the job of the musician isn't to get rid of the nervousness because that's a natural feeling, but it's to not allow it so much space that we can't feel the other things as well. And that's so true here when we're talking about what if.
Your brain is going to throw up what if this, what if that, negative. Your job is to go, okay, brain, I get that's your job. But what if this, what if that, positive. This is the brain's way of dealing with things. It's like the brain is thinking, oh my god, one day I may get punched in the face if brains have faces, but you know what I mean.
So I'm not surprised. I'm going to punch myself in the face every fucking day until it actually happens. And again, 99% of the time it doesn't happen, right? I mean, how much sense does that make? But that's how our brains are wired. That's what we do.
We can change this. We can change our wiring. We never get rid of our old wiring altogether.
It reminds me of A Christmas Story, which is one of the movies we watch every Christmas season where he's plugging in the tree. There's like all these plugs and the different adapters and adapters on top of adapters and plugs on top of plugs. That's kind of like our brain, right? We've got all this wiring in there. So it's not like we go in and we snip out the old wires and put in ones. We just add new wiring. And that's what's so great about the brain is that we can create that new wiring.
Day after my biopsy was, no, two days later, it was a Saturday, my biopsy was on a Thursday and my daughter and I, we have a sleepover once a month where she gets to have pizza or nachos or whatever she wants to do, but it's just with me. Dad goes down and watches movies in his man cave and sleeps down here and she gets to sleep in the bed with me and we get to play games and watch movies or whatever we want to do, do our nails, do crafting. And so this time he, Kevin had a friend coming over for a movie. So I said, why don't you and I go out for dinner? So she had just gotten these really sparkly, beautiful gold pants with a red top. She goes, I'm going to wear this with my sparkly shoes. And here I am in my jeans and a sweatshirt.
And so I thought, well, I better dress up too. So I got into a shirt that I actually bought a long time ago and never worn. It was green. So we looked very Christmasy. And we went out to dinner and we did some Christmas shopping. And as we were driving home, my brain went to, what if, what if this is the last time you get to do something like this with your daughter? And in that moment I caught it and I said, yep, but what if there's more of this to come, way more of this to come. And then I also said, and if there's not, if the cancer's back, if I only have six months to live, I'm going to enjoy this now. That's new for me. And I was at peace through Saturday, through Sunday waiting for these results.
This is so true for you too. You think, what if I lose? I want you to also think, what if you win? Wouldn't that be amazing? When you think, well, what if I asked for too much, I want you to think, what if you get it? What would that be like? And if it turns out bad, if you end up losing, if you end up asking for too much, well at least you enjoyed the process.
If you are constantly rewiring your brain to at least be thinking of the possible positive outcomes, not to mention that feeling good can only help. When you're in and operating in that negative space, that's not going to help you win or really believe in your number.
I mean, if you are going to feel bad at the end of this process, which is a possible outcome, I'm not saying anything different. I could have cancer, you could lose, right? Why not wait to feel bad then instead of feeling bad now, just in case?
Again, let's not punch ourselves in the faces just because we're afraid a punch is coming down the line from somewhere else.
Well, I got my results on Monday morning and they were negative, thank God. So no recurrence, happened to be a fat necrosis, which I've never been so excited to have fat something in my body instead of cancer. And I'm super glad and I'm super grateful. But this is the reality for me. This is something that I'll have to deal with the rest of my life. Every lump, every bump, every pain in my, a bone, every cough, every headache, I'm going to have to think, could this be the cancer coming back? That is just the reality of my diagnosis and of being a cancer survivor.
And guess what? You will also have to deal with that. Not with cancer, but the job that you have chosen, for better or worse, is one in which you are constantly having to deal with uncertainty. What number should you pick? Should you go to trial? What strategy should you pick? What should you undermine your opening? What should you avoid in your opening? All of the things. This is the job people. Isn't it time that you started to learn how to deal?
I'm here to help as we're both going through similar things. I mean, yeah mine's a bit more serious, but I know that for you, it feels like life or death. So I'm not going to shame you for that just because mine is "more serious than yours". They feel the same. The body doesn't know the difference. And I get it, my friends.
So as I go through my shit, I'm going to help you with your shit and we're going to get through this together, but know right now that you have control over your brain and that you can rewire it.
You can't get rid of it thinking what if all the negative things. But you can at least counteract it by consistently training your brain to also think of what if all the positive things.
The outcome is the outcome and we'll deal with it when that comes.
What I am really hoping for you and for me is that in the meantime, we live our best possible lives.
I love you. Talk to you next week.
While you wait for next week's episode, how would you like instant access to exclusive trial skills training on my H2H funnel method for voir dire? Grab a pen and paper so you can jot down the website address for a 16-minute video that will help you win more cases. The free training is called Let the Jury Solve Your Problems in Three Easy Steps. And I'm even going to send you a workbook to go with it. Now are you ready for the address? Visit sariswears.com/training. You'll see me there. Enjoy.
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