*What* to the Power of 4: My Ninja Move for Getting Unstuck

I’m sure the mathematicians in my audience will say that mixing maths and linguistics is even worse than mixing metaphors, but bear with me – I’m going to show you a handy psychological method for quickly solving problems or making decisions or getting yourself unstuck and moving forward.

All you need to do is ask yourself ‘what’ four time. Here’s how it works:

Pick a problem, issue, or thing that you want to change.

Got it?

Ok, write it on a piece of paper, and proceed to step one:

Ask yourself ‘what is this?’.

Write that question under the thing you just wrote down.

Don’t overthink, just label it with whatever definition comes up first. Problem, conundrum, opportunity, dilemma – whatever. Write ‘= [label]’ (whatever label you chose) behind the first word.

Step two:

Ask yourself ‘What else?’.

This is where it gets interesting because everything (literally everything) is always several things at the same time.

A problem is also an opportunity, a chance to reframe, a reason to procrastinate, something to delegate, a thing to ask advice on, so on and so forth.

Write all of them down as well, and keep going until you’ve no other answers to ‘what else’. Make an effort, don’t stop too soon. We want to get your brain to exhaust itself looking for different ways to see the thing.

Step 3: ask yourself ‘what if?’

What if this were something easy, or fun, or exciting, or inspiring or… ?

Note that at this stage, you want to start digging around in your mind for positive or potentialising concepts.

And, concepts that challenge, replace, or obviate the label you initially assigned to it.

Again, write them down, and then underline or circle the word that most uplifts or inspires you, or gives you the best headstart or way forward on resolving the issue.

Step 4: Ask yourself ‘what can I DO to make it that way?’

Once more, start jotting down ideas, and don’t hold back on the crazy.

At this stage, you want to let your creative brain go berserk on the issue and pull out all the stops –  so don’t filter, don’t censor, don’t criticise – this is brainstorm time and anything goes (onto the paper, that is).

Do this as fast as you can, to avoid your inner critic from stepping in and slamming on the breaks.

Whatever crazy idea comes up, it’s game. Ask Einstein, build a time machine, become a cyborg, ingest a library… all good.

Obviously, those don’t help very much, but:

There’s a very big chance that inbetween the crazy and unrealistic ideas, you’ll find one or two actions that you can take right now, and that will move you forward.

There you go: my method for quickly getting yourself unstuck.



P.s. Give it a try, and let me know how it went for you. I’m curious.

Also published on Medium.

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