The Magic of “What If?” | #51


How we’ve always thought about it: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and your thoughts and beliefs are pretty static. But you CAN change your thoughts and believe in new possibilities. Reframing your thoughts is a practice, that requires practice! This episode first features a giant rant about the Supreme Court, and then we start talking about how to shift your self-belief from a self-sabotaging spiral to a more affirming thought that feels just as true and inspires you to take action. Using the phrase “What if” to help you examine the possibilities is a great tool to reframe a negative thought. Listen and learn! 

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Thanks to Leave Nelson B for music and Jen Hearn for photography.


00:00:00] Hello. Welcome back. My friends. It is a new month. It is may now. Uh, holy crap. So it’s, it’s a great time to check out your second quarter goals. Anything that you started doing in April do sort of a 30 day check-in, see what’s working, see what’s not, see what you want to change. A lot’s going on for me this month.

There’s. First of all. Okay. Let’s first of all, let’s talk about the Supreme court. Uh, this is all very fucked up and whatever you are feeling about it. If you are scared, if you are angry, if you are sad, if you are panicking, uh, that’s valid. If you’re happy, uh, you shouldn’t be listening to this podcast because we’re not going to get along..

But everything else is valid, but if you, if you’re happy that they’re trying to ban abortion, then, uh, get out of here. Cause we’re not, we’re not going to see eye to eye on some shit. [00:01:00] Um, but I should have scared you off during the capitalism season. Anyway, uh, this is messed up. This is, this is not good.

There’s a lot to absorb. There’s a lot to learn. I am not a political expert. I am not a legal expert. but I am someone with the potential to become pregnant. And I have a lot of thoughts and feelings and stress about this. So I’ve been pretty actively, talking about it, re-tweeting stuff on Twitter.

So if you are on Twitter, follow me there @ Cait Liz Fisher, and I’m sharing like a lot of resources, um, really good threads about ways to help. I recently. Recently as in like, you know, the day, all this bullshit news broke, found out that planned parenthood while important while they do provide abortion services and other important health care and [00:02:00] reproductive healthcare services, uh, they union bust.

And that was a giant bummer to find out.. And I’ve been donating to them every month, since 2019. So I have canceled that and I’m going to switch that donation, that monthly donation to, a local or reproductive justice, sort of more, activisty more leftist -y cause so that the money is actually going to help people who need abortions and not to, uh, suppressing unions because that ain’t right.

So that was a fun fact there that I, that I learned and felt a little, I mean, I felt kind of disappointed in it, but I was just like, okay, well, what I do now is I move that money somewhere where it’s going to make more of an impact. And I know that it’s actually being used for what I intended to be used for, which is abortion access. So that’s a thing. [00:03:00]

Another important thing to know is that, you should not like stock up on medical abortion pills, unless you have an actual like plan and distribution network. Otherwise they’re just going to expire in your cabinet giving you a sense of security when people who need them can’t access them because they’re going bad in your cabinets.

Uh, also reminder that there are laughable weight limits on those and they are not effective over like 150 to 200 pounds. So if you can get an IUD, that’s rad. If you want to only fuck partners with vasectomies, that’s rad. And again, if you’re in a state where if, okay, so if Roe is repealed or not repealed, because it’s not a law, if it’s overturned, if this Supreme court decision is overturned, which is the implication and the intention here, I’m hoping perhaps public [00:04:00] pressure will light a bit of a fire.

Who the fuck knows. cause we have a bunch of religious extremists on the court and it’s not looking good and I don’t want to get like too far into this because I actually have a point today, but I wanted to talk about this because it’s really relevant and it’s really on topic and you’re here listening to me every week on Fridays.

And I wanted you to know that this is top of mind. for me. Just like it is, I’m sure for most of you. So if the decision is overturned, abortion will be up to state by state, decisions. So. If you are in like I’m in Ohio. And unfortunately our governor DeWine is pretty Republican on this and we would, I believe have like a six week abortion ban.

but I could, you know, drive somewhere or go somewhere to get one, if I needed. [00:05:00] Uh, if you’re close to a blue state and you have that access, that’s rad. If you live in a blue state, cool. please donate to abortion funds and abortion causes in states that need the most help.

A lot of this is going to be like deep south and just some of our lovely Midwestern spots like Ohio also, it’s like, you know, I’m here in my little bubble and I’m on the pill, which birth control might be next. Uh, gay marriage might be next. Sodomy laws could be next. Like interracial marriage could be overturned. Can you believe that, like, interracial marriage, had to be like, okayed by the Supreme court, that’s so fucked up.

And I am not really in a position where I think I am going [00:06:00] to get pregnant because I’m on the pill and et cetera, blah, blah, blah. But that doesn’t mean that like this doesn’t affect me or this doesn’t matter to me. And also like fun fact, I’m not a woman. And a lot of people who can get pregnant are not women.

And I realize that in the grand scheme of it, it’s like, I don’t know, a single digit percentage of trans and gender nonconforming people who are non women who can get pregnant, but like, that still matters. And if you are here listening to the show by a queer, disabled, chronically ill trans life coach, then you probably have trans people in your circle. And this is important to you.

So just a reminder, try not to say that this is a women’s issue or a women’s healthcare issue or legislating women. just talk about bodily autonomy in general, because that’s important for every single person. [00:07:00] And cool. I’m gonna move on from this. Otherwise I’m just going to go on forever.

So, May new month, new month, new goals, new things. So another ask is to please get on my email list. If you are not already. You can get on one of two ways, you can either take the creative block quiz or you can sign up for my free ebook, which is called achieve your dreams without burnout. It’s got a ton of different thought exercises and journal prompts and things to help you sort of reconfigure the way you approach goals. And it’s super dope. And then every Monday I send out a little pep talk, a little creative hug from me to you. And I will also occasionally send out, like, I don’t know, if I feel inspired to write to you, I’m going to write to you, but definitely every Monday plus bonus magic stuff, when I feel like it .It’s rad, it’s cool. Get on that list. [00:08:00]

So today’s topic is the magic of what if. Thinking of different possibilities, even outlandish possibilities. And the way that we’ve always thought about this is like the phrase you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right. We think the past is in the past. And if your past was fucked up, I guess, you know, you just fucked up forever or your dreams are over or goodbye forever.

But what if that wasn’t true. What if you could change your future by changing your thinking today? Right now? Change the way you think about yourself, change yourself concept, and that changes your future. Like nothing, nothing here is set in stone. Everything is in flux.

Oh, also I forgot to mention with the abortion thing, sorry, that, it’s it’s going to disproportionately fuck with and harm marginalized and oppressed [00:09:00] communities. So indigenous and black people of color, indigenous black and people of color. I always fuck up that acronym. poor people, working class people, people with less access. So like I was saying, I could go to another state if I needed to, because I would fucking figure out a way, right? Like I’ve got a little bit of savings. I’ve got people who are willing to help.

Not everybody has that. Not everybody is resourced enough to make that happen. And that’s honestly what these people are getting off on, the fact that they will be able to subjugate masses of people and force them to give birth. And that is super fucked up.

So even if it doesn’t affect you personally, even if you have the access to go get an abortion, if you need one, people need you, [00:10:00] those people, those communities need you to support this cause because they matter just as much. And I meant to say that, but I got fucking distracted. So reminder. Do, do it, help, do something. And it’s not just voting either, God I said, I wasn’t going to go down this rabbit hole, but everybody’s like, oh, you need to vote.

We need to vote for Democrats. Bitch. The fuck do you think we have been doing for 50 years since Roe was first decided it has been 50 years. 50 years. There has been democratic control of the presidency of Congress on and off for these 50 years. Jesus fucking Christ. Stop blaming [00:11:00] us for not voting hard enough.

Fucking stop it. I’m so angry. I am so angry. Okay. Hold please I’m going to center myself, take a sip of water and a very deep breath. And then I’m coming back to this podcast topic because I really, really, really want to talk about it. Really do. Okay.

Okay. I am back and I’m going to stay on topic now.

Okay. So. Magic of what if right? The what if the possibilities we think there is a set path before us. We think that we set a goal and there’s one way to achieve it, but there are actually nine bazillion ways to achieve it. There are [00:12:00] infinite steps you can take toward the person you are becoming.

And even if you can’t see them right now, what if they exist anyway? What if they are available to you anyway, to get curious about, to look for, to find, to shift your perspective.

There’s a lot of freedom in this and it can be really scary too. Right. Because if you have a path to follow, you at least have some steps outlined. But if you’re like, oh, I could do literally anything. Sometimes choice is scary. Like we say, paralysis of choice. You know, like when you have too many options that can prevent you from taking a step or making a choice, like Chidi from the good place. Right? Even if he has two options in front of him, he will freak out trying to figure out which one is the right one. So we don’t want to be like that. We [00:13:00] don’t want to be so indecisive. We want to get to a place where you’re like, what if whatever step I take next is where I need to be? How much power in that.

So I specifically want to talk about this convention I went to in January, and this is where I launched level up your creativity, which is the third iteration of my level up program. I am not teaching it as a course this year because I am focusing on other things like my 90 day goal glow up and, it just, something had to go, so it was that, but I do want to bring it back eventually and offer it as an online course. Cause it’s fucking dope.

But I’m at this convention, I’m there. I’m like, hi, I’m Caitlin, I’m a creative coach and an author and I have a podcast and it’s just, you know, I’m all the things here. Get to know me. I’m super queer and rad.

And I had this like easel board up, like, you know, big post-it [00:14:00] notes, right. They stick to the wall. It’s like a big, big pad of paper on an easel. And I wrote, what’s your deep down dream. And so some people were coming up and they were grabbing my markers and they were like writing down, like, I’m going to finish this story, I’m writing.

Or I want to, uh, paint a mural, like a public mural or, you know, just really cool, like creative, artistic stuff. And there’s one guy. He didn’t write anything down, but he just sorta came over to like, you know, chat with me. He was kind of older. He was like, gruff. I want to say he smelled like cigarettes.

Like he gave me like vibes of my dad a little bit. And so that might be coloring my opinion because he was just sort of like, eh, whatever. And we were talking about writing and he said, he’s a writer. And I was like, oh, that’s cool. What are you write? And we talked a little bit about his writing and things.

And he said, you know, like it’s never going to happen. I’m never going to be a writer because I’ve never been able to get published. And, [00:15:00] you know, I’m a coach, so I want to like push back on that and be like, oh, but the possibilities and yada, yada, but like we weren’t in a coaching relationship.

He hadn’t consented to me like trying to push his beliefs in any direction. Um, not that I like push your beliefs, but in, in a coaching container, as we call it or like a consult call or whatever, my job as the coach is to maybe present you with another perspective or help you kind of unpack a belief that you have and look for the evidence, either of that belief or that, that belief might not be true and serving you.

So if this guy was my client, I would be like, okay, like, let’s talk about what makes somebody a writer, et cetera, et cetera. But, you know, we weren’t in that relationship. So I didn’t want to like, press the issue. I was just like, oh, you know, That sucks. Like, have you tried this? Have you tried like submitting to like an online blog or article thing or, you know, whatever.[00:16:00]

And it just made me really sad. I remember feeling like, like I picked up this, this feeling off of him, he just seemed hopeless and I felt really sad. I felt like kind of empty after he left. And I was just like, I wish I could help him. I wish he could see, like, what if, what if he could have embraced the fact that being a writer doesn’t mean you have to be published.

You know what, if he self-published a book. Would that work for him? What if he hired an editor or like a book coach, those exist, there are people whose whole job it is to like help people get their first book published. What if he took a workshop? Like, I don’t know. I don’t know [00:17:00] any of the, what ifs he had already tried. I don’t know any of the, what ifs that he had shut himself off to.

But going back to these sort of infinite possibilities and infinite, what ifs that can expand, what is true, could expand your perspective of what it means to be a writer, to be an artist, to be a musician, to be a friend, to be a mom, you know, like any of this, to be an activist.

There’s all these what ifs. And I felt really closed off after I talked to him because he didn’t, he didn’t have the what ifs, he had basically given up. He’s like, yeah, I tried to be a writer. I tried to write, didn’t work, gave up. But what if? You know, what if there are ways that you could keep going? [00:18:00]

And something that I do, in coaching. So this is called the self coaching model or thought model, and it was developed by a life coach called Brooke Castillo. So I just want to give credit to her. This is widely used in the coaching industry as a standard of how we explore beliefs with clients and ourselves. A lot of coaching is coaching yourself and unpacking the thoughts that you are having about your business and about your offer and about your clients and about your price and about all this stuff.

So, hooray, this tool is it helps build awareness of your thoughts and your beliefs. It’s for awareness. It is not for identifying where in your thought process, you have fucked up and broken something and now you need to fix it. And that is some of the hardest work that you will do with the thought model [00:19:00] is not trying to fix yourself with it.

And this thought work, thought model is something that I walk my clients through when they’re feeling stuck. And it’s also a great way, like I said, to get aware of your own thoughts and to observe them and just recognize– I have talked about this before. Probably not in these terms, but I’ll say something like notice the resistance when you schedule rest on your calendar, like notice what thoughts come up, examine if those are true or not, this is related to thought work.

It’s not like strictly going down this model line by line, but noticing your thoughts, noticing resistance inside yourself is what we’re going for. We want observation and the more you do this, the more you can catch the thought when it happens. And you can just decide like, oh, actually I don’t, uh, no, I don’t, I don’t want to fuck with that thought today.

a great example of [00:20:00] this is like, if you catch yourself kind of like judging somebody’s outfit and you’re like, oh my God, I cannot believe she is wearing a crop top. And then like your inner voice comes in and is like, whoa, I did not raise you like that. Like she can wear whatever she wants. why are you being such a judgy weirdo right now? That’s thought work that’s observation. That’s noticing that you have a thought and then coming in and being like, Hmm. Where’d this come from, what’s going on there. That’s not how we think. That’s not how we believe. And so you can catch yourself and it’s pretty powerful.

So how the model works is that it, it focuses on the following things. So you have a circumstance. A thought that arises, a feeling in your body, like an emotion feeling, an [00:21:00] action, and a result. So when we are writing out a model, we will make like, we’ll just write C T F A R down the side: circumstance, thought, feeling, action, result.

The circumstance is totally neutral. So your circumstance here is not “Girl wearing bad outfit.” That’s a thought that’s a judgment. Your circumstance would be girl wearing crop top. Your thought is one sentence that just distills the thought that you have. So your thought here would be, she should not wear that crop top or crop tops are for thin people. Or whatever it is.

I don’t know why this is the example, but it’s just coming up for me today. So we’re doing crop tops.

Your feeling is, it’s a little tough to get to the feeling sometimes because we want to be like, I feel like. She shouldn’t wear crop [00:22:00] tops. That’s not a feeling. So you want to actually sort of like sense in your body, where this feeling is coming from. Maybe it’s jealousy, maybe what you want is to be able to wear a crop top, but you have all these beliefs about how you can’t wear crop tops.

And so now you’re judging her. Maybe you feel judgmental, maybe you feel angry, maybe you feel worried cause it’s cold out and she’s wearing a crop. So what, what is the feeling and then what action or inaction do you take? So in this example, maybe your action is like, I caught that thought and checked myself, or maybe your inaction is that like, you don’t talk to that person today, or maybe you do, maybe you go up and you say like, “what are you wearing? I can’t believe you left the house.” I don’t recommend it because then the result might be [00:23:00] that she throws her lemonade on you because you were a jerk

and in the model. So. It’s not the best example, because I want to talk about things like “my writing sucks” and like, “oh, I’m not a real artist” and things like that. Because when you go through this model with thoughts like that, especially thoughts about yourself, the result is almost always going to be something that proves your thought right.

So if your thought is, “I’m not a real artist.” Your feeling is probably something like shame, your inaction is that like you don’t practice your art or you don’t share it with the world or you don’t, you don’t ever try to get better or learn anything new. And then the result is that your art doesn’t improve. Reinforcing the thought that you’re not a real artist. [00:24:00]

And that’s why this model is so powerful. And this is also where, the, “what if” kind of comes in. So to shift from the sort of shamey thought spiral, the negative or unintentional thought pattern that is happening. So like the circumstance happens, you have a thought and what we have believed up until now is that you can’t help that thought, you can’t help your reaction to something.

And sometimes that’s true if there’s like a trauma trigger. Yeah. You’re not always in control of that. That can just jump up and be like, Nope, we feel fucking scared. Hit the ground, run away. That’s a different thing entirely. This is sort of the conscious thought. Maybe one that is not built upon trauma. We can talk about trauma later. I want to keep this one a little bit light since I went off on a rant about the Supreme court at the top of the episode.

So we’re shifting from the shamey [00:25:00] “I’m not a good artist” spiral into a better one. One that feels better. One that supports the result that you want, which is you do art and it feels good.

And to do this, we have to be curious and we have to wonder. What if I’m a good artist already? What if I never have to share my art with the world in order to consider myself an artist? What if, what if, what if.

And this can be a little tough because sometimes we want to make like this beautiful affirmation thought, we want to be like, “I’m a best selling author,” but that does not feel true.

Especially when you were starting from like “my writing sucks,” “who let me write a book” “My book was an accident.” These are all literal thoughts that I had while writing my book. Maybe not my writing sucks. I think that my writing is good, but [00:26:00] I routinely was thinking things like “who let me write a book” and “I’m going to let people down”. And “this book is not my best work.”

And now I’m having all these thoughts about, like, I have changed my opinions on some things, since I wrote this book and I have a lot of thoughts about my book. Right. But shifting to like, I’m a bestselling author does not feel true because I’m not, I’ve sold like 700 copies of my book, which is still great, but it’s not best-selling author.

So then we want to instill what we call a bridge thought and this bridge thought often comes in the form of a what if.

What if my book is exactly what it needed to be? What if I could be a best-selling author? What if this book is the first step in my writing journey? Those feel way [00:27:00] more comfortable, way more self-soothing and self-regulating and less freaky outy.

Another tip for creating a bridge thought is to say like I am learning or I am willing. So for example, like I’m learning to love my writing. I am willing to practice my art every week.

What are you willing to do? Or what are you learning to do, that is true and feels like the truth. Not like you are lying to yourself and looking in the mirror, like, gosh, darn it, people like me! ‘Cause affirmations, they’re great, but sometimes they feel goofy.

So an example, I want to take you from the sort of freak out spiral thought model to a better one for lack of a better term. So [00:28:00] the circumstance is that I am hosting an anniversary event to celebrate my book.

The gaslighting of the millennial generation is three years old in just a couple of weeks. May 19th was when it came out. And my thought about this was like, nobody cares. This book is three years old. This is not a current book. Why, why call attention to it? It’s already outdated.

And I sat, I sat with this and I was like, okay, where is this feeling? And I actually felt it, like in my head, in my brain, it felt kind of like light and buzzy. And I was like, I feel delusional. I feel self-indulgent and arrogant. And I feel silly. I feel silly for calling attention to my three-year-old book. The action that came from this [00:29:00] combination of the thought, like nobody cares why bother and the feeling of like, this is silly and self-indulgent right.

So those two are paired up driving a terrible race car of self-sabotage. And the action is that I haven’t really done much marketing for it. I made a Facebook event and I wrote a blog, but I haven’t talked about it. I haven’t put it on Instagram yet. Haven’t done nearly half the shit I should have done to get this rolling.

It’s just the ADHD special. And the result is that like nobody has RSVP’d, because I have no fucking details about what this event is going to entail. Duh. And that proves the thought true. Nobody has RSVP to my Facebook event that I’m not talking about because “no one cares.”

And I decided that that kind of sucks. Let’s not. So let’s get curious about it. Let’s use the what if technique. [00:30:00] And I went through this in advance of the recording so that it didn’t have to do it live, but so the circumstance is the same. I’m hosting an event for my book and this is neutral. Like that’s just a fact.

I scheduled a date. It’s Saturday, May 21st. There you go. That’s the neutral circumstance. And then here are the what ifs that I came up with.

What if this is still a relevant topic that people want to hear about? What if this event gives me the momentum to write a second book? What if the event goes viral and gets a bunch of cool attention? What if I just threw the most fun virtual party for millennials I can put together? What if it’s okay to celebrate this book? Just because I’m happy and it doesn’t matter who shows. And as I was thinking about those things, as I was looking at those what ifs and questioning my beliefs, I realized that I have had some thoughts that stopped me from talking about it.

I have changed my mind. Like I said, about some things that I wrote. [00:31:00] For instance, I was deep into like the Dave Ramsey Kool-Aid at the time. And so I was kind of parroting a lot of his financial advice when it comes to buying a house and things like that. And I was like, renting is great. And now I’m like, we should eat the landlords.

I’ve gone much further left since I wrote the book, I wrote that I’m not anti-capitalist. I am anti-capitalist. You know, this you’re here. but all of those thoughts made me feel like I shouldn’t promote my book anymore. I shouldn’t sell my book. I shouldn’t celebrate my book because I’ve changed. And I felt shameful about that.

And I believed that the book was pointless because it, some of these ideas were outdated. And that was really interesting to me to explore what was underneath those thoughts. And explore what was underneath the fact that like, I wasn’t marketing this cool event that I’m putting together.

And then I go into another great tool of mine, which is like, what would I say to a [00:32:00] friend or my sister or a client? And I would say that writing a book is fucking awesome. And. Learning and changing your mind is part of being alive and being a person and growing,

huh? Okay. What if, what if it’s fine? What if my book is fine? No shit. Okay.

So then my thought shifts here to “my book deserves my attention,” huh. And then. Uh, I started to cry, so that told me a lot about my feelings. That made me feel seen. That thought made me feel proud of my accomplishment. And so then from that thought and feeling combination, the thought my book deserves my [00:33:00] attention and the feeling like I’m proud, the actions I take are so much different from what I thought, “nobody cares” and I feel like this is silly. Like holy crap, man.

So let’s go back to this “what if” and how you can use it. You don’t have to do like a whole thought model, which if you’re a client of mine, I will happily walk you through. But you can use what if even outside of a self-coaching model or this thought work.

Whenever you find yourself stuck or rushing or frustrated, like I mentioned, whenever I’m walking the dog and I’m like, I don’t have time for this. It’s like, ah, what if, what if you’re fine and the dog needs to poop and that’s more important than your calendar right now.

But so ask yourself, what if so, like what if this is exactly [00:34:00] where are you supposed to be? What if this is fine? What if you are perfectly safe, even though you feel scared? What if it’s okay to feel all of your big feelings and you don’t need to hide them or water them down or be palatable or polite or professional? What if you don’t do the dishes and you rest today.

Allow yourself to look for possibilities and options, especially when you are experiencing that perfectionism, everything must be perfectly in order before I can take a break thing. We’re not doing that. What if done is better than perfect? What if it’s okay that your first draft is like a first draft? What if you send an email to your boss without having four of your closest friends look at it.

This also comes up in my ten year vision trainings and my clients love to hate these. So [00:35:00] think 10 years in the future to who you want to be. Right. What if you can access that version of yourself right now? What do they do? What do they think? How do they act? What are their boundaries? What if you could borrow that power? Because it’s yours.

I love this. Okay. And we’ll leave it there. And once again, a reminder to get on my email list, I will put the two option links for that. You can either take the creative block quiz, which will give you a series of emails about how to bust through your particular creative block. Or you can just go to the ebook and sign up and get that free ebook.

And then I’m also going to add the book anniversary event to so that you can RSVP there. And there’s a chance to win a signed copy of the book. And I’m still developing all the details because I’m awesome [00:36:00] and ADHD be like that, but it’s going to be a great time. And I think I’m going to put recordings of it on the podcast.

So that’ll be rad and super fun and okay. I love you. Drink water and I will see you next week.

Published by Caitlin

Caitlin writes and coaches about trauma recovery, relationships, motivation and confidence, self-love, queer identity, and social justice. They are the author of The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. Find their work at

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