Again we feature a guest writer. John Hittler, Father of 7, husband, difference maker, transformational business coach, generous, bold. Author of The Motivation Trap (Oct, 2018) Featured writer for forbes.com
“Ever wonder how leaders change the world? It’s simple, really. They make declarations that do just that. They can sound something like this:
- “I’m going to get into the best shape of my life this year!”
- “Our team is building our second product, and it will be twice as profitable as the first.”
- “We’re going to take the White House and change the course of history!”
Declarations can be pretty dramatic, or they can be simple and straightforward. But one thing is certain: Without them, nothing changes. We simply stick with the current paradigm or the old declaration.
Where, then, do declarations come from? The most effective place is a “what if?” question.
Why Start Things With A Question?
That’s a great question, really.
Questions literally open up (and close) pathways in your brain. Like an itch, questions need to be scratched. When a great question is posed, whether in a team meeting or at a family dinner, our brains race to answer them (or in the case of teenagers, avoid them like the plague).
Consider the relative power of questions that we hear often:
- “When will you be home from the movies?”
- “Where are we going on vacation?”
- “How do we get this project moving forward again?”
With questions such as these, our brain knows pretty much what to do since there are similar precedents and experiences we have from the past. Our brain uses these precedents to find or quickly create an acceptable answer.
So why, then, is a “what if?” question so much different? And why do leaders and visionaries use “what if” questions so fluidly?
The Power Of A “What If?”
With a normal question, your brain quickly and transparently uses previous information, data or situational experiences to concoct an acceptable answer.
With a “what if?” question, your brain usually holds no previous precedent, paradigm or example to rely upon for an acceptable answer, so the answer heads to a different area of the brain. When this happens, we often say out loud, “Great question!”
“What if?” questions force us to imagine or create, often calling forth strong emotions. Consider the structure and possibilities of the following two questions:
- “Where are we going on vacation this year?”
- “What if we enjoyed our best vacation ever this year?”
Both deal with the quality and details associated with an annual ritual for many families, a great break designed for fun, relaxation and togetherness.
With the first structure, “Where are we going on vacation this year?” notice how your mind immediately conjures up options that are most likely known entities: perhaps a traditional family meeting spot or a favorite “comfort” vacation like a lake house or cottage.
With the second structure, “What if we enjoyed our best vacation ever this year?” you notice that the structure of the question produces a new mandate: “best ever!” That standard or mandate could certainly be achieved by the structure of the first question, however, it is not required. Hence, the power and the subtle genius of “what if?”!
When SpaceX was founded, which question do you suspect Elon Musk asked: “How do we create private space travel for individuals?” or “What if we create a private space travel company for individuals?”
The second question leads much more easily to a beautiful, powerful act, namely a declaration of a previously impossible (or improbable) outcome.
How To Start
If “what if?” questions are so powerful, when can you utilize them best? The answer is simple: Anytime when a change, large or small, is what you’re after.
Consider these areas/themes to ask great “what if?” questions:
- Health: “What if I felt energetic, focused and ready to go every morning?”
- Adventure: “What if I took the most outrageous adventure of my life this year?”
- Wealth/Investments: “What if I had $5 million in liquid assets invested by 2025?”
- Learning: “What if I finally learned to paint with watercolors?”
- Team: “What if we doubled our sales this year?”
The list seems endless. Where the mind can conceive it, the question can be asked and then answered in the form of a powerful, world-changing declaration. Declarations have that power. Simply asking the question and making the declaration to change shifts your entire world and the quality of your life.
What Comes First For You?
If you are going to change the world, or at least your little part of it, start with one theme or category. Pick a simple theme that will pay big dividends. Health is a great one, as everyone can envision a higher version of vitality, energy, weight and strength.
Ask a simple question, like, “What if I were in the best shape of my life?”
You’ll transform your world more so than if you were standing still.”