Seeing a What-If world

Have you wondered what your life would be like if you lived with a What If philosophy?

Would you belt it out with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, windows wide open, or would you look back with more than a few regrets because you lived with an If Only philosophy?

I wonder:

  • What if I could build a world-class organization?
  • What if I could create a community where people build connections and share their strengths and uniqueness?
  • What if I could make a grilled cheese sandwich without burning one side?

As a first-year university student, one of the first articles I read was about positive expectancy.

It described me. For much of my life, I have awakened figuratively rubbing my hands in delight, wondering what the day would bring.

That feeling has ebbed and flowed over the years. Once it ebbed so slowly, I forgot that I had ever held those magical feelings.

My life felt flat, the colours grey, my breath shallow.

As a parent, I had wanted to create that feeling of delight in my sons. While tucking my little boys in at night, I would ask them two questions:

  • “What was the best thing about your day?”

The intention was to give them a sense of satisfaction about their day.

  • “What are you looking forward to tomorrow?”

This was to create a sense of positive expectancy.

One evening, as I tucked my older son in, and asked these questions, he got quiet and paused.

I was curious. He had spent the day with a friend’s son, double his age at 10.

“What was the favourite part of your day?” I prodded.

“Joey and I laid on the trampoline and looked at pictures in the clouds.”

My heart melted.

“What are you looking forward to tomorrow?”

“Joey said we could do it again.”

What if we could ask ourselves these questions?

What if, at the end of each day, we could remind ourselves of one lone thing we did that satisfied us? Brought us joy?

What if we could expect more joy, more satisfaction tomorrow?

And what if we could be bold and audacious? What if we ask ourselves “what if [insert secret desire, big hairy audacious goal, best vision ever here]?”

I got to wondering, can we What If our way through life? Or will it fade away to If Only?

The bedtime routine I shared with my sons reflected their innocence and willingness to explore the What If.

*************

As I mentored my people, I would ask them to recall the times when they had accomplished what they thought impossible.

I discussed this the other day with my younger son, now 29. He recalled the moment he was finally able to tie his shoelaces.

It can be that simple.

In the course of my consulting practice, I have encountered people who, from all outward appearances, had a dream job. They had great compensation, personal and professional growth, benefits. Yet, they were bitter. “If only I had left the job sooner, I could have….”

Even saying the words If Only lowers our energy, elicits a sense of regret.

How can we push, maintain, and grow the What If innocence of youth and delay the onset of If Only that can accompany age?

We need to remind ourselves that more success and more good things are possible.

As leaders, we need to be the reminder or prompter of memories of the successes of our people.

Simon Sinek, British-American author reminds us:

“A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.”

What if by reminding them of their successes, not matter how small they may appear, we can help them move into their What If.

Our people may need to be reminded that if they can do something small well, such as tie their shoelaces, they can move to doing bigger things with increasing success.

Then we propel that energy. The memory of those endorphins surging through our body into what we are looking forward to, our big What If.

  • What if we could make that presentation with confidence?
  • What if I could figure out the ins and outs of this bookkeeping transaction so everything balances?
  • What if I could stay calm when I tell my client things are not going as planned?

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” Vincent Van Gogh observed.

  • What if we could do the seemingly impossible?
  • What if, in our unique way, we could fly?
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