One of the most powerful questions there is. And yet, a question we don’t often experiment with.
Asking ourselves ‘what if…’ may imply regrets regarding a decision in the past. Or it may mean we need to do something different in the future—both a possible change to our status quo.
Change is not something we go after naturally, even while it’s happening to us all the time. Change makes us uncomfortable and puts us out of our comfort zone.
The truth is that executing ‘what if…’ very often results in new insights and unexpected journeys.
The biggest ‘what if…’ early on in my life was the decision to leave the Netherlands and move for work to the Czech Republic. When confronted with the possibility of accepting a job in Ostrava, a poor industrial town in the northeast of the Czech Republic, I knew my life would change dramatically. If I decided to go, I would turn my life upside down, knowing I would go far outside of my comfort zone.
Something inside of me kept telling me this was what I needed to do if I wanted to get to know myself better, explore the world and get to know different cultures. I knew it would open my eyes and create new possibilities, as painful as the decision may be. So I decided to follow my heart and my gut and went. The decision did everything I expected. I became a better person because of it.
Asking ourselves ‘what if…’ and thinking through the possibilities will open our eyes to a different reality. “What if…” doesn’t mean you have to follow-up on the outcome of your question. That’s a decision you have to make for yourself. But the insights you gain from exploring the possibility will surely provide you with a different perspective on your current status quo.
And that’s the point.
By pushing yourself to explore a different reality, you will find out whether your status quo is the result of well thought through decisions or the result of convenience, fear, or perhaps plain laziness. If you conclude, you’re on the right path by staying where you are, all the credits to you.
But more often than not, and with honesty in answering the question, you may conclude you’re not moving because of something else. Something you know deep down inside but are not willing to confront. A new reality that requires you to step out of your comfort zone.
Here are some examples of somewhat random ‘what if…’ questions, small and big:
- What if we would allow our people not to return to the office?
- What if we would acquire that competitor that’s struggling?
- What if we change the way we do business?
- What if I took a break instead of keep staring at my screen?
- What if we would let our teams self manage?
- What if I started listening?
- What if we would solve racism forever?
And here’s a follow-up question and a great test of how you think about your current status quo:
- And what if we don’t. What are the consequences if we leave everything as it is?
The easy part is to figure out what the right ‘what if…’ question is for you. The hard part is asking yourself that question and answer it in all honesty.
You may discover a new path for yourself, your team, or your business. Are you willing to step on that path and move into your zone of discomfort? If you don’t, make sure you do it for the right reasons. If you do, you know you’re going to learn and grow. And that in itself is a big part of the battle.
QUESTION: What if…?