The power of ‘What Else?’

During the fall of the roman empire, someone must have exclaimed “This is all a bit unprecedented isn’t it?” as the society they built and relied on crumbled around them. Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day and in the same manner, the empire didn’t collapse overnight. There had been signs of political, social and cultural unrest for a long time and over centuries things changed. It’s very easy to draw parallels from history to what is happening now. The divide of power between the rich and the poor was widening, the climate was worsening, the Antonine Plague killed many and the Roman Empire regions were becoming increasingly politically divided. For all our social, cultural and technological progress, we haven’t changed that much at all.

I don’t believe that change needs to be something to be feared or to be challenged. Within these strange times, these new norms, some things are going to inevitably change and this feels like a moment, an opportunity to rethink the future, a chance to use the power of “what else?”.

When someone first mentioned mindfulness to me, something in me jarred. I know when to hold a space, and when to listen to myself and pay attention to moments. However, I also know myself well enough to admit I’m a “what next?” person, so let me introduce you to the power of “what else” – the what next movement.

There is something very powerful and exciting to imaginate “what else” when we feel both overwhelmed with possibilities and unable to plan for the future. It’s a space for exploration and creativity. And anyone can do it.

Using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®  as a facilitation method helps explore exactly these sorts of questions. I ask a question, people build models using LEGO® and then we share the models and start to play around with them. This becomes a form of coaching – what’s your goal, what’s the reality, what are the opportunities and what will you do about it? Changing the models with each question to explore the issues deeper. In some cases, we can start to imagine what might happen if we took that step, if we made that change or if things were the way we think we need them to be. Very often we place limiting beliefs on ourselves; “I can’t change my entire approach to business right now, it’s not the time!” So, when you are invited to explore your options, focusing on a model, rather than yourself, you start to see possibilities that weren’t there before, you can remove the barriers to explore ‘what else’?

You don’t need to use LEGO® to harness this power (although it’s a lot of fun, who doesn’t like LEGO®?) you can mind map it, you can draw a picture, you could use playdough – whatever comes to hand that allows you to generate a scene you can start to play with.

By exploring ‘what else’ you can start to imagine what you need more of, what you need less of and how you might do that. You can create ‘the big picture’, the macro goal, then start to draw in the steps to get there, the micro goals and what else? You can start to imagine who you might need to collaborate with and what else? You could start to create a timeline, maybe set a date for when this vision could be achieved by and what else? You can imagine what it feels like on that future date, what it will look like and who will be standing beside you.

‘What else’ isn’t just about drawing up a plan of action to help you achieve your goals though. It’s also about understanding how those actions make you feel – are you excited by this journey you just created? Do some areas of it not feel right for you? It’s ok to think you have a dream or vision which actually, once you play around with it, doesn’t feel like a path you want to go down. In some ways, it leads us back to mindfulness, to be open and aware of how our thoughts make us feel, how our minds might overrule our hearts.

A book that helped me through some challenging times is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, a book which encourages us to follow our dreams. I invite you to play around with your dreams first, in order to follow your heart, you need to listen to it first. Just like the Romans, as our society continues to change, as we strive to find our place within it and explore what else that means, please remember these words from The Alchemist; “when you can’t go back, you only have to worry about the best way of moving forward.”

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