Whilst walking on a beautiful summer morning, I was listening to the podcast titled ‘The Melissa Ambrosini Show’ with guest speaker Ramit Sethi. Ramit asked Melissa a question: ‘What does your rich life look like?’. Melissa immediately provided specific details as Ramit continued asking her questions to obtain further detailed information. Melissa sounded inspired and excited as she spoke of her grand plans.
As a result, I decided to deliver this activity to my team members in a slightly different way. Instead of asking my team, ‘What does your rich life look like?’, I asked them to choose a personal goal that we could work with to generate more options and assess all possibilities.
After successfully testing this activity with my team members, I knew this would be an ideal activity to incorporate into a training session. This led to the design of the ‘Expansive Thinking’ training program to help people think more expansively.
According to Philip Berry: “Expansive thinking requires you to intentionally open yourself to a world beyond you, seek pathways to that future, and walk deliberately toward those new options.
…we continually define our world within the context of what has been and remain hesitant to truly embrace what might be.”
Thinking expansively sounds easy on the surface however as I began facilitating the program, I realised just how challenging people found to do so even with guidance and being asked questions to gain more information. In most cases, many of the participants were hyper focused on their perceived ‘reality’ of a situation surrounding their goal and highly concerned about the many barriers associated with achieving their goals. Barriers such as lack of time, investment required, energy spent, conflicting commitments, what others will think were some of their top concerns.
After explaining the activity to the group of participants, they were divided into pairs. Everyone was given suggestions for questions to ask of their partner when they shared their goal. The aim of the activity was to generate inspiration and a wide range of options that the person may or may not have thought of.
In some cases, this did help the other person to think more expansively. Conversely, in most cases, barriers were the primary focus of the time allocated together to discuss their goals. Irrespective of a two-hour training program to help participants think more expansively, I believe it would be highly valuable to include a follow-up program or include a group or one-on-one coaching to really encourage expansive thinking and help participants become more cognisant of their current way of thinking. Furthermore, I have used this activity with my coaching clients and it was a highly successful activity that helped my clients get excited and feel more inspired and motivated to achieve their goal.
Lisa Christen from Forbes Coaches Council believes that teams in the workplace, enjoy using expansive thinking as it is creative, interesting, encouraging, and positive. To quote from, Christen: ‘Expansive Thinking creates a space to draw out the best ideas and insights from the team. This new ability to harness your team’s collective intelligence can bring your team to whole new levels of success, helping to raise engagement, satisfaction, innovation and, ultimately, profits’.
There are 3 sure-fire ways to use expansive thinking:
1. Associate with those whom see opportunities everywhere – Associate with those Support people whom can guide and challenge you and help you see alternative options and gain new perspectives.
2. Collaborate more with other teams in the workplace – Use projects as opportunities to develop new relationships and gain new insights by working with people whom are not in your immediate team. In my former role as Talent Manager at Knight Frank, I had the opportunity to develop relationships and work with everyone nationally within the organisation which I thoroughly enjoyed. From the reception staff, human resources team, the IT and accounts team to the sales and Executive team.
3. Seek new learning opportunities – challenge yourself to read new books from the usual types of books you read, join a professional association, engage in micro learning, discover new podcast recommendations on various topics you are interested in, follow mindset accounts on Instagram to gain a fresh perspective, attend networking events – virtual or face-to-face, work with a coach or mentor or enrol in a new learning program. I highly recommend this book by Grant Cardone – The 10x Rule for inspiration.
Expanding your thinking requires effort and develops over time. Everyone is at a different level so avoid comparing yourself to others and focus on developing the skill. Awareness is the first step to making significant changes in your life.