What and if. Together two of the most powerful words in the English language. They represent endless possibilities in life and are at the very inception of millions of ideas big and small. Used effectively, these two words have the power to take us anywhere, to do anything, to be anyone. What if I could…? What if I did…? 

But with as much power as these words have to move us forward, they have many times the power to hold us back. What if I fail? What if I can’t learn it? What if they don’t like me?  

For years, I gave “What if…” the power to dream, to search for what was best for me, to identify my passions (spoiler alert: one is writing, but that’s only the beginning).  What I couldn’t do was give What if the power to act on my behalf, nor did I trust enough in myself or my abilities to follow these passions and pursue my dreams.

Instead, I tucked my What if’s away like precious collector’s items, like any one of many “things” I used to collect…bird cages, antique clocks, and old magazines to name a few. I recognized and acquired things both special (at least to me) and potentially valuable, but I never bothered to identify their actual value.  Sure, most of what I collected would most likely be worth more than I paid one day. But this loose “theory” in assessing value was only accurate for those material things.

I’ve learned in the past few years that value of my What if’s, in and of themselves, is nil.  They are ideas.  They are goals. They are plans.  But until they are acted upon, they have no value. In its raw state, a What if is simply potential; it’s the basis for a best-selling novel, a successful cafe or a new technology, but is has no intrinsic value. And the longer a What if is stored away like some precious object, the less potential it has. It becomes that comfortable “Someday I’ll…” or “Eventually, when the time is right…” to get through a rough day, a disturbing turn of events or just everyday life.

But, alas, this absolute “right time” is comparable to a 2:30 am weekday train on the Barcelona Metro—you can wait all you want, but it’ll never come.

More importantly though, and the main takeaway here is that, while valueless in its infantile state, a What if is far from worthless. When taken from its drawer, the chest under the bed, the box in the attic and acted upon, a What if is limitless in its (potential) worth.  What if a machine could replace a failing heart? What if cars could drive themselves? What if a person could find a date, on a phone, simply by swiping left or right?

It doesn’t matter the idea. Great achievements large and small often start out as valueless What ifs, but for the person who sees the potential and isn’t afraid to pursue what others may think impossible, they become life passions that can change the course of history.

And while I can’t promise answers on how to change all your What if’s to Well done’s, I will share everything I know about how I managed to turn a few of my What if’s into concrete plans and unexpected accomplishments.