“What If” questions are a powerful tool in the arsenal of unlocking higher performance, particularly in leadership. Often we find ourselves in situations where “what if” questions can literally unlock new ideas and eventually solutions.
Consider how often this scenario happens:
You (or one of your leaders or team members) are trying to achieve something at work, and it’s just not happening. Perhaps you find yourself thinking on a regular basis about the reasons why it’s not happening. And each time, you come to the same conclusion – just not going to be possible. In fact, test this out with the thing in which you’ve come to this conclusion most often.
Before executing the technique below, here’s what’s happening:
Your unconscious mind is stuck in the pattern of thinking of all the reasons why you can’t do it. And, it’s preventing your same unconscious mind from being able to see ways that it can be done. Who was it that said, “every problem has a solution?” I looked it up and it’s actually many notable historic people that said this, but I digress. The point is, it’s true, and we can all agree it is.
The power of “what if” questions is that they interrupt the pattern, and therefore the outcome in key ways:
- By asking “what if” questions, limiting beliefs are interrupted and possibilities are opened, like rays of light coming through window blinds in the morning.
- “What if” questions establish new neuro pathways (patterns) of performance. It’s like going a bit longer distance each time, ultimately being able to run a marathon or Ironman.
1. Take out a piece of paper and write down every thought you have in relation to the topic at hand:
- “What if, I (or we or they) can do that thing?”
- “What if, I (or we or they) had nothing standing in the way, to do that thing?”
- “What if, I (or we or they) are capable of doing that thing, easily?”
Literally open the door up to all of the ideas that come streaming in. Let yourself go with it. Make an exhaustive list until every time you ask the same question, you have no further ideas.
2. Then, do the last part of the technique, which aligns your unconscious and conscious minds and gets you into action:
Spend more time on “what if” questions than why I can’t.
Physically time yourself on this part. If you spend 20 minutes thinking of all the reasons why you can’t do it, spend 20 minutes writing down all the ways that you can do it.
If you are leading yourself, get into action on the most plausible way you can do it. If you are leading others, ask them what they see as the most plausible, or even, fastest and easiest way to achieve it. And then, get out of their way. This is a powerful tool that high performers use over and over, making it look easier for them to achieve greater results. And it can be easy for you, and those you lead too. Just tap into your unconscious mind using “what if” questions and ride the velocity to the achievement. Rinse and repeat.
Karen Brown is a subject-matter expert in the field of leadership and professional performance. She is the CEO of Velocity Leadership Consulting, supporting senior executive leaders to elevate performance by making behavioral changes using scientifically proven methodologies and techniques. She has appeared on 37 leadership podcasts and featured in many publications, including two books, the latest being endorsed with a 5-star rating by legendary Brian Tracy. Her favorite quote is by Carl Jung, “what you resist, persists until you deal with it.” She enjoys helping execs deal with the things they are resisting, is a continuous learner, an international ultra-endurance athlete, and resides in Colorado.