Kyle Ruffin


Friend and colleague Kyle Ruffin shares her insights as a caregiver who is trying to find balance, but without the guilt.

“What if.” Two words that make every one of us put the breaks on. “What if” IS one of the LIES that limit.

We all know people who succumb to the extremes of “what if.” “What if the plan crashes? That’s why I don’t fly.” “What if I drown? That’s why I don’t go on a cruise.” What if I step on a crack? That could break my mother’s back. So I just won’t leave home.”

We can look at people with severe phobias and feel sorry for them, recommend therapy or even laugh at some of them. But what about the “what ifs” that aren’t so extreme. “What if something doesn’t go right?” That phrase – even though we might not speak it out loud – is, as the old Superman intro used to say, “more powerful than a locomotive!” It can stop all forward progression. It can kill careers and relationships. Even worse, it can derail true happiness. “What if” creates safe, untested boundaries that trap us. These are the borders of the comfort zone. You know the place…it’s where nothing changes. The place you stay – fully believing that it’s the best place for you even though you’re suffering.

I was visiting my mother when I had an epiphany about “what if.” After her stroke, she was under complete supervision for eight months. In the hospital, at two rehab facilities, at my house, there was always someone within in earshot who could rescue her if something happened. The tough-love, and yes, somewhat selfish daughter that I am, issued an ultimatum. I gave her a deadline for going home or to an assisted living facility. I knew that it was the only way to motivate her and continue her progress toward independence.

I heard the real and imagined “what ifs.” Lots of people second-guessed my decision to send her home. They let me know that they thought I was being cruel. After all, what if she falls? How will she manage? How will she eat? What if she can’t get around her multi-story house? I even carried a fear-based list of “what if’s in my own head.

In spite of all the “what ifs”, I decided to stick to the plan and send her home on the designated date. We’ve had some hairy moments, but I’m pleased to say that it’s been several months and she’s doing great. She’s not back to her old self. I don’t know that she will ever recover 100%, but she’s in her own home, fairing well. She even told me not to come one weekend because she wanted to try to make it on her own. Who was I to argue?

Sometimes what if’s are real – but instead of them being a reason you stop in your tracks, I say acknowledge your “what ifs,” and give them the respect they deserve. But rather than letting “what ifs” kill your forward motion, make a plan to deal with the possible consequences.

I credit Dale Carnegie with teaching me this life lesson, and reading LIES That Limit reminded me of it. Carnegie’s wisdom is timeless and can be applied to way more than meeting friends and influencing people. He teaches that when fear threatens to keep you from doing what you know you should do, prepare for the worst. Make a plan to address the absolute worst that could happen. My plan: I’ll call Mom every day. I know her friends will call me if they can’t reach her. I’ll visit often and take care of stuff she can’t handle herself. If something happens, I’ll deal with it – just like I had done up until this point.

As for your “what if’s,” once you’ve examined the underlying fear, solidify a plan and proceed. The nice thing about that strategy is the “worst” rarely – if ever – happens.

Conquer the “what ifs” in your life.  Get your copy of “LIES That Limit” today!

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