We can create and choose the meaning we attach to the events in our life. The meaning we attach to events in our life determines the quality of the actions we take and the results we achieve. Resourcefulness in our ability to create meaning is crucial. How do we become more resourceful? We get to the corner of the whiteboard.
My sister in law’s previous boss Elias Lebbo, at the time of writing, is the CEO of Traveller’s Aid. Apparently instead of having a small whiteboard on the wall for the team to brainstorm ideas, he made the whole wall a whiteboard. When asked why, he stated that “if the answer is at the corner of the wall and the whiteboard is too small, we may not get there.” Powerful stuff that encourages resourcefulness of idea generation.
We can apply this same concept to the meaning we create after something happens. Three questions help us do this.
Question 1: What happened?
Embrace the neutrality of an event by making the answer to this question unemotional and factual. Leave out any interpretation or judgement as that’s for question 2. Focus on the what, where, when and who. This is the first thing to go on the “whiteboard”. Remember, use a huge whiteboard!
E.g My boss called a meeting yesterday and in front of my whole team, she told that she was “not happy” with my work.
Question 2: What did you make it mean?
This helps to build awareness on how we interpret, judge and make sense of what happens. This usually happens reactively and automatically. It’s often inaccurate and not useful.
E.g. My boss thinks that I am incompetent.
Question 3: What else could you make it mean? Think of as many things as possible. Once you run out of things, think of another 5 things.
This is how we get to the corner of the whiteboard. Keep asking “what else?” and you will start to flex the muscle that helps you create meaning. “What else?” is one of my favourite questions. I dare say, it has changed my life and lives of many people I have worked with.
E.g My boss had different expectations for the work I did. I didn’t clarify the expectations ahead of time. She sees more potential in me and wants me to push further. My boss is having a bad day. She is blunt to everyone but carries no malice. This is an opportunity for me to develop and grow. I can learn from this.
As you will find, not all meaning is created equal. For whatever you come up with, look for what is useful. We have already created meaning. Now we can choose what is useful. If the meaning we attach to something leads us to take actions that move us towards a desired result, it is useful. To get to the useful stuff, get to the corner of the whiteboard. Keep asking, “what else?”.
If you know someone who will find this useful, please share this newsletter with them.
Much love to you and of course, to myself.