A 'What if' Free World

Every design workshop I've ever given uses 'what if' (which we'll shorten to Wi) statements. Wi statements are incredible at creating new thoughts and ideas.

  • 'What if we lived in a world...'
  • 'What if we could...'
  • 'What if there were no limits...'

The Wi world is full of possibility, but 'what if, there were no what ifs'?

What if, instead of having to think beyond our limitations, we imagine they no longer exist? What if, instead of imagining the outcome of a scenario, we act first and think later?

What if, this was this was the last what if statement you'd ever read?

Would the world be a different place? Well, that depends. We've framed Wi statements in a positive light, but Wi statements aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Any of the following sound familiar?

  • "What if I was stronger?"
  • "What if things go wrong?"
  • 'What if I lose?"

Wi statements easily move from positive to negative in seconds. From my experience, I find that the majority of paralysis around taking action comes from negative Wi statements.

Why? Because it's easier to talk yourself out of action when you're focusing on negative outcomes. So, what happens if we stop thinking, and start takoing action instead?

If you find yourself asking "what if I start going to the gym?" go to the gym. If you find yourself asking "what if I ask this person for a coffee" ask them for a coffee. More often than not, any questions that starts with Wi is better off with action than rationalisation.

  • "What if we didn't need to worry about..."—Don't worry about it, just do it.
  • "What if we could..."—Don't worry about it, just do it.
  • "What if there were no limits..."—Don't worry about it, just do it.

Wi statements are useful for expanding your thinking, but if you're taking action every time the statement appears, then you're doing one better than expanding your thinking. You're expanding your ability to get things done.

Steve Jobs used to live in what he called a 'reality distortion field'. Every day, he and anyone else around him would ignore the limits defined by others. He didn't worry about what is, or isn't possible. He crafted his own world. He may have asked alot of 'what ifs', but they were always met with action vs. thinking.

If this type of thinking was good enough for Steve Jobs, then it's good enough for us.

A Lesson for Future Champions

'What if' (Wi) statements are incredible at creating new thoughts and ideas. The main problem with Wi statements is that they lead to overthinking. Whenever you think or hear a Wi statement, take action.

It's easy to talk yourself out of taking action, and it's even easier to place a self-limiting spin on a situation. Every time you think 'what if', take action and worry later. As long as the action doesn't land you in jail, or worse, dead, then you have nothing to worry about.

Experiment with the above for a week and see how you feel.

Expanding your thinking is useful, but expanding your actions will get results.