I just realized that I have been asking myself the wrong question my entire life! Being a perfectionist who is in recovery, I have been limiting myself. I have taken a lot of risks by most people’s standards: having moved to New York City at 27, not knowing any one; changing careers seven times; taking 20 years of improvisation classes; and traveling to almost 40 countries. Yet, most of all of these adventures have been chosen by me. I suppose you could call me a controlling type who likes to be in charge of my own destiny. However, rarely have I quickly said – “Yes! WHY NOT” to ideas radically diverse from my own. Instead, my usual response, was just “WHY?”

For example, when someone early on in my career said I should get a job in sales, I asked “why?” I know I didn’t want to sell insurance. Or, when one of my clients suggested that I should apply for a job as the head of HR because I would earn a lot more money. I thought”why?” I have no interest in that job; else, if I did, I would have pursued it. I mapped out a career plan to become an independent coach and consultant in my 20s and have created a fabulous career that I love. The only real career nightmare I experienced was when I took a job at a nonprofit and thought”why not?” So, I am not one to get overly excited about people that say – why not?

Recently, I attended an International Coach Federation Conference (ICF) in Washington DC and one of the speakers,Warren Berger spoke about his recent book, “A More Beautiful Question”. It is one of those books that is perfect for an age that is looking for constant innovation. His talk and the book started me pondering about the questions that had organized my life – specifically in that it hit me although I asked “why”, I rarely ask “why not?”

This became acutely obvious during a recent trip to London. I was there on business and had organized a weekend with friends to celebrate my birthday. As good luck would have it, my best friend, Vanessa, happened to be in town on the same weekend along with her sister, Pandora, and husband, Paul, who live in London too. So, they volunteered to spend the day with me! This was exciting because originally my husband had planned to go but at the last minute, he had to go to a meeting in China. Why?? Never mind…

So, as we began the day, I suggested visiting the Tate Modern as I love modern art. The building had added a new wing since I had last visited and after exploring the mind-blowing new space and fabulous expansive views from the roof, Pandora suggested we wander around some local markets before lunch. As we ordered a late lunch of fish and chips, the hosts asked what type of beer I wanted. Given that I just arrived in London the day before, I was still jet lagged and was struggling to stay awake. But knowing that I love beer, my local hosts insisted that I must have one in honor of my birthday, so I said “why not?” I had a small beer and felt fine.

For dinner, we first made a pit stop at a famous pub in the West End. Paul insisted again I have to celebrate with a pre-dinner beer for my birthday. Although I am privately thinking “why?”, I overrode that thought with “why not?” I remember that I am in London and not Belgium, where the alcohol content for most British beers are around 4-5%, and not 9%. I ask for a low alcohol beer, so beer #2 comes in less than 24 hours, for someone who drinks 1-2 beers a week, but it was tasty! Then, we go to the bistro and the waiter explains they have an extensive menu of specialty cocktails. Of course, my hosts insist upon another birthday drink. “Why?” …er, I mean “Ok, why not?” I have a fancy Citron vodka drink which was quite refreshing while I am praying I won’t pass out. As we order dinner, my hosts ask what kind of wine do I want with dinner? “Why…Ok, why not?” I proceeded to have a lovely French white wine and tried to sip it slowly while I continue to eat. After a sumptuous dinner and dessert, and already tipsy, I declined an after dinner drink and managed to make it home without too much fuss. The next day, I’m happy to report I only had a mild hangover. I realized that I need to loosen up as we had been pacing ourselves throughout the day. It was cathartic and energizing to just go with the flow more in life. I wonder if I could continue this approach of “why not” throughout my trip?

On Sunday, I met up with a coaching colleague that I knew through a friend in the USA but never met in person. We had a cup of tea and a nice chat and he asked me if I would join him and his girlfriend at Sunday Assembly, a non-denominational type of church in London. It’s a very friendly, welcoming place where people tell inspiring stories, sing fun music and learn something that enhances their lives. My first reaction was “why?” After all, I am in London; I want to go to the National Portrait Gallery or go shopping for tea at Fortnum and Mason and eat fresh scones with clotted cream, but going to some kind of church is not on my list. As my colleague describes how inspiring the Sunday Assembly experience is, I thought – “why not?”

 If you have been to London, you may find the people very polite and courteous but over the top gaiety isn’t what you see in everyday life. However, this is what I found at Sunday Assembly. As I approached the hall, where the meeting was taking place, people with name tags were smiling as big as circus clowns and they were all welcoming me in. Upon entering the place, everyone and I mean everyone says hello and is smiling. I couldn’t help but smile too, felling the positive energy start to wash over me like a downpour. My host Bob introduces me to his girlfriend who saved us seats in this packed room. He explains that Sunday Assembly was started in London by Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, two comedians who were on the way to a gig in Bath, when they discovered they both wanted to do something that was like church but totally secular and inclusive of all—no matter what they believed. The first ever Sunday Assembly meeting took place on January 6th 2013 at The Nave in Islington. Almost 200 people turned up at the first meeting, 300 at the second and soon people all over the world asked to start one. Now, there are over 70 Sunday Assembly chapters in 8 different countries where people sing songs, hear inspiring talks, and create community together.
This beats a Catholic church for history!

There is a band on the stage playing and a small group of people  singing. Then, the head comedian begins the service by welcoming everyone and explains the day’s agenda. There is a powerpoint that shows the words to a Fleetwood Mac song, which we all sing. There are a couple of speakers who follow and share their stories. One in particular is a woman who came back from a terrible car accident and became a strong open water swimmer, whereas previously she didn’t even know how to swim. With a little reflection time and more singing to Beatles and Meat Loaf, the traditional money collecting ends with a tea and biscuit reception with fellow Assembly mates. Everyone kept smiling throughout the entire meeting and  I left feeling energized. Why not think about joining Sunday Assembly in NYC? I haven’t been to church in decades having ran from the Catholic church and it’s rigid dogma and lack of openness to gays and diversity in general.

As I am reading one of my inspirational books, I come across a quote by Mason Cooley: “Why not – a slogan for an interesting life.” I realize that I need to allow some time for “why not?”. I have shut down options in much of my life, unless I really trust the person, such as my husband or close friends; rarely have I allowed casual acquaintances to expand my options. As I thanked Bob for inviting me, I started thinking what would I do if stayed with the “why not?” mentality. Taking a stand up comedy class came to mind, when Bob had shared how he really benefited from one. Sure, why not?

Are there opportunities for you to ask “why not” questions in areas of your life? Let me know where they take you!

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.