My son and I recently attended a major music festival; Download 2022! It's a huge event - some 80,000 people in attendance - that takes place in the middle of proverbial nowhere. It's a field, basically.
My son Noah loves music - he always has - and taking him to something like this where he can be immersed in it for a while has always been high on my agenda.
If you're aware of our family scenario this kind of event isn't always easy to attend. Noah is disabled and requires a hands-on carer to access most things; he's also wheelchair-bound.
This means some things are straight-up inaccessible or damn-near-impossible to navigate given that ground conditions will dictate quite how far we can physically travel. There are, too, other unglamorous aspects of this life which require a lot of consideration; things like personal care facilities for one.
I have a predisposition for dwelling and ruminating; it's part and parcel of being a modestly anxious depressive. Naturally, thinking of ALL THE THINGS THAT COULD HAPPENwas causing my tiny lizard brain to go into overdrive. What if we couldn't get a spot on one of the platforms to watch the bands? What if we couldn't find a bathroom when we needed to? What if they didn't let us in at all because I got some paperwork wrong?
What if, what if, what if.
Since it was the first time we've ever done something like this (in this scenario; I am not green when it comes to attending large-scale festivals, even thought it's been a hot minute) the list of unknowns was FAR greater than the things I could safely pin down as 'good to go'.
Come the day - because we did only go for one day this time around - the car was packed up with everything I knew we could need and we set off.
...and what happened?
How was getting there?
Easy. I followed the directions and took the turnings one at a time.
How was getting on to the site?
Easy. I spoke to one person at a time and went to where the access points were.
How was accessing the event itself?
Easy. Everyone was so courteous and genial that they made this wandering-around-with-a-moving-vehicle thing seem absolutely normal. What's more, there were more people than us doing it.
What I'm getting to here is that I couldn't have known any of this stuff until I actually got there and did it.
Was it stress free when I was there? No, of course not. But, the experience I got to share with my son was infinitely more impactful and desirable than any of the anxieties could have cancelled out.
How does all of this relate to running a creative, freelance business?
Retelling this story got me thinking about the anxieties we put ourselves through when we're working on our freelance businesses. We're on the front line and 'putting ourselves out there' and that is scary.
All of the 'what if...' scenarios that we fantasise about when we consider the outcomes for the actions we might take; not the actions we have taken, but all the different ones we could take.
We become the catastrophist! (It's not a great superpower, to be honest). We consider all the worst stuff that could happen and then blow it out of all proportion. Then ... we do nothing. We don't act. We don't achieve anything.
And why do we catastrophise and live in a world of 'What if...'? Because we fixate on things which are outside of our control. We tell ourselves not to but, dammit, we do it anyway!
Now we've acknowledge that together how do you feel? You now know what's up. It doesn't make it easier to deal with but knowing something is better than knowing nothing!
What can you do with this?
While I can't tell you how your context affects you - you're a beautiful, unique individual - I'd like to offer some considerations on lessening the impact of 'What if...' as I perceive them.
Until we get to where we are headed - especially for the first time - we don't know what's up. We just don't. It's all new (and new is scary!). We are literally making shit up as we go along because, simply put, we just don't know what we are doing.
We might model our actions on those of someone else because they've been there and done it, but we don't know how those actions will affect us; right here, right now, and - maybe - later on.
It's especially important to remember what we can control directly, what we can influence with our actions, and what we cannot impact at all. Those things which we cannot control, it would be wise to let them go. Why have that stuff cluttering up our consciousness, giving us focal points to develop new anxieties?
Lastly - and you may have heard me say this time and time again if you've read anythingI've written previously - nobody else's path or version of success is applicable to us despite how enamoured we are with them. What they've done in their conditions with their set of skills is unique to them; you can't replicate it.
How you value yourself and your professional life; what you believe your purpose in life is; how you've learned your skills and apply them to your craft. All of that stuff is uniquely you and will contribute to what you deem to be a successful outcome for your work.
Taking all of those things into account, you can consider the 'What if...' question until the break of dawn but - with a little refocussing, remembering what makes us unique, and consideration that it doesn't matter that we don't know yet - we can take action that make sense.
We can come out on top and love every step of the journey we take to get there.