Personal Writing

And what else?

We watch a lot of Masterpiece programming on our local Public Broadcasting Station. A lot. Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking River Cruises, welcomes us to nearly every episode with this commercial:

As an aside, I’ll know I’ve “made it” when I can comfortably book us on a Viking River Cruise. Unlike, say, winning an Oscar—a goal that lived on my list for most of my life and was only somewhat recently removed—booking a Viking River Cruise is aspirational but not impossible. It’s good to have goals that are actually achievable as you advance down your path, by the way.

This post, however, is not about my stretch goals. Rather, it’s about the simple phrase Mr Hagen says to us nearly every Sunday night.:

Over time, I’ve come to add…be curious.

Viking River Cruise commercial

I’m re-reading Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit, a book I read early in 2020. I had forgotten how enamored I am by MBS until I came across his newest book How To Begin earlier this summer at the library. I’m now the vice president of the local chapter of the MBS Fanclub. His books and videos are great; he’s great. And I recently discovered that I’m only one degree of separation from him since one of my coaches is friends, or at least friendly, with him.

Please hold on while I make a note in the meeting minutes to add getting to personally know MBS to my list of goals…

OK, I’m back.

MBS says there are seven essential questions to ask, but the most important, number two, is:

Three little words. “And What Else?”—the AWE Question—has magical properties. With seemingly no effort, it creates more—more wisdom, more insights, more self-awareness, more possibilities—out of thin air. (57-58)

The Coaching Habit

There are four points to consider when using this question versus just blurting out an answer, aka allowing your Advice Monster to rear its ugly head:

  • Stay curious, stay genuine—and actually listen to the answers
  • Ask it one more time—it allows the other person to dig deeper
  • Recognize success—when there is nothing more to explore, you’ve reached the end of the line and that’s good
  • Move on when it’s time—if you feel like you’re nearing the end, reframe AWE and ask, “Is there anything else?” (62-63)

Knowing these two like I do, I feel pretty confident both of them have altruistic reasons for creating this content. But let’s also realistically recognize that Mr Hagen wants “more heads in beds on the water,” and MBS wants more of his books on people’s personal bookshelves. I’m fine with that. I want to help my existing audience dig deep to find their inner spark, AND I want to grow my work to actually afford me the Viking River Cruise lifestyle I dream of.

The opposite of curious is autopilot

How much of your life is on autopilot these days? Not sure what I mean? See if any of these resonate for you:

Scenario I: Get up, make the coffee, get the kids out of bed, shove some breakfast down their throats, drop them off at daycare/school/their activities, get to work close to starting time having no real idea where the last 60-90 minutes went.

Scenario II: Drag out of bed and go to the gym, come home and shower, get on your first of one million zoom calls for the day. Wait, what is this meeting about? Do I even need to be on this one? I should put on some laundry. What are we going to eat for dinner tonight?

Scenario III: Hop onto social media for “Just a sec” only to realize 45 minutes have passed with nothing to show for it but a slight cramp in your scrolling thumb. Shift over to the email about a Can’t Miss! sale from your favorite brand. Click into that rabbit hole where you’ll fill your virtual cart with all kinds of things you don’t need or likely even want, only to realize that 45 more minutes have passed with nothing to show for it but another line on your credit card bill. Order Door Dash because you’re too tired to cook.

Scenario IV: Schedule a cozy night in with your partner/spouse and/or kids only to find that you’ve each spent nearly the past two hours on your individual devices doing who knows what and definitely not engaging with each other. Brush your teeth and get into bed feeling like a failure as a partner/parent again and declare that “next time we’ll do it differently” as you fall into a restless night of sleep.

Scenario V: Fill in the autopilot blanks for yourself

Nothing about those scenarios or likely any one you created involves true curiosity or digging to find out what else might be rumbling around in your brain or begins to uncover that spark of your dream and give it even just the tiniest bit of oxygen to grow and flourish.

Break the autopilot cycle

What would your life look like if you got really, truly curious about it?

  • Why do you go to the gym in the morning if you hate the sound of an alarm clock?
  • Why do you tell yourself you’re going to read more books if you don’t enjoy reading?
  • Why do you buy the bags of chips and buckets of ice cream if you know you’ll eat them when they’re in the house and then hate yourself for being weak?
  • Why do you find yourself with a glass of wine in your hand as soon as 5pm hits whether you really want it or not?
  • Why do you keep getting together with that one friend who never asks you anything about your life and only goes on and on about hers?
  • Why don’t you ever tell your partner/spouse how important she/he/they is to you?
  • Why don’t you stop and consider what you want from the next three years of your life? The next three months? Three days? Three minutes?

What might change if you asked yourself, “And What Else?”

  • What if you asked your partner/child/colleague/friend “And what else?” the next time you’re having a conversation rather than just giving advice that shuts it all down and leaves you both feeling unsatisfied?
  • What if you decided losing weight is about more than just fitting into that one pair of jeans you spent way too much money on because you hoped you’d fit in them one day?
  • What if you decided it’s ok to be 10 pounds heavier than your “ideal weight”?
  • What if the salary of your current job, which pays well but is unsatisfying, isn’t enough anymore?
  • What expenses could you cut back on so that you didn’t have to make as much money and could, instead, find a job that gives you time, autonomy, flexibility, joy?
  • What if? What more? What less? What else?

Not sure where to even start with all of this? Download my free (re)Discover Your Spark guide. It’s designed to help you find what lights you up inside so you can start moving towards it with curiosity and a sense of what else is waiting for you to explore.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.

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