Has anyone ever told you, “You have to think bigger!”
Think bigger? I laughed the first time I heard that phrase. After all, it’s not like our thoughts can physically get bigger.
And yet, it’s become a regularly used phrase in the entrepreneurial and coaching world – there’re channels, books, shows, even companies called Think Big.
So, I did some research. And after reading some articles like How To Think Big, In Work and Life on Forbes and “How To Think Big” on How to Wiki, it started to dawn on me that people aim to think big without even giving a second thought to what they’re actually trying to do.
Sure, thinking big has many positive associations like success and vision, to just throw some words around that may get you to care about thinking big.
But what does it really mean anyway and why is this relevant to me?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines thinking big as:
to have plans to be very successful or powerful
Funny, though. To me, success, power, and the effort to think big are not related at all!
I know many coaches who help their clients think bigger and attempt it themselves regularly, without the slightest wish for more power or success (in the traditional sense).
What In The World Is Big Thinking?
Imagine you sit on your balcony, pondering about the opportunities you have in front of you.
When it comes to your job, you feel like you have only two options. Either climbing the career ladder or quitting.
In coaching, you see only two options: Continuing or quitting.
And in your relationship, you consider the same.
Bigger thinking requires asking questions that relate to the bigger picture.
Let’s attempt to think big in the context of a single person’s job. The way we do that is through questions. It may start with:
How can I be better at my job?
What is the company trying to accomplish?
What does the client value in this company?
What does the industry stand for that this company is a part of?
What need does the industry address?
How does what I do matter to somebody on the other side of the globe?
If I were to work in this industry for my entire life and pass on a legacy, what would people appreciate even after generations pass?
When we attempt to think bigger, what we do is we zoom out from our mind’s eye. The goal behind this process is to find new connections and opportunities that we haven’t seen before.
The core idea behind thinking big is this:
Everything and everyone is connected in one way or another. In order to see more opportunities, all I need to do is zoom out and connect the dots.
As a coach and entrepreneur, you’ll want to start with the big picture when you explain something to your client or your team. You’ll want to help people expand their view in order to provide direction.
Think Bigger Tool #1: Questions Of Width
As coaches, we often play with two types of questions: questions of width & questions of depth.
Questions of Width expand the variety of options in one particular domain. For example, if your client were to share a story of what activities they particularly enjoyed, a way to go wider and explore would be to ask what else?
These two words help explore the domain of ‘activities enjoyed’ fully, thus giving a full picture of all elements involved. Thinking big has only one goal: To help you and your clients make new connections between seemingly unrelated subjects.
Notice how, depending on the way you use the words ‘what else,’ you can expand and connect topics indefinitely.
Here’s an example:
Client: I enjoy playing badminton.
Coach: What else?
Client: I also enjoy playing football.
Coach: What else do you do, even if you don’t enjoy it as much?
Coach: What else do you enjoy doing after you write?
Client: I’d go and cook, but that doesn’t feel as great as I’d like it to.
Coach: What else doesn’t feel as great as you’d like it to?
It’s like you’re in a dark room with a flashlight and you start pointing at every single thing that’s inside that room, trying to discover all that is there. Questions of Width explore all parts of a domain, thus giving you more items and things to play with.
Think Bigger Tool #2: Questions Of Depth
Questions that go deep usually wouldn’t help paint a bigger picture, unless the depth of the question is something that is relatable to everybody.
Here’s an example:
Client: I don’t feel so good today.
Coach: Who are you, who doesn’t feel so good?
This question would often startle clients, because it’s not self-explanatory, nor is it something clients think about regularly. The first assumption is that the coach here is asking about the personality of the client or the way they describe themselves. But that’s not really the question, which is why the coach would need to ask the question 2-3 times until it reaches the client. What the coach really is looking for is the client’s understanding of who they are beyond their thoughts or feelings.
Client: I feel I need the courage to do something, but can’t get myself to do it.
Coach: I understand that you experience thoughts, that if you believe them, will make you feel bad, one such thought being ‘I don’t have courage’. But that aside, who are you who is thinking that thought?
Client: I don’t know, it comes automatically.
Coach: Ok. But who are you who is observing the thought?
There’s something peculiar that happens when we remind our clients of who they really are. That they’re not their body. And that they’re also not their mind. It first gives them immense power, because suddenly whatever thought that may have been troublesome is identified as a thought and nothing more.
This particular question goes deeper into the subject matter, and yet it helps expand thinking because the answer inevitably lets you zoom out and look at the big picture. It’s a sure way to get your clients to step out of their own thinking and see the bigger picture.
If you help your clients expand their thinking and form new connections, you’ll often see them take so much action that you can’t follow up. They’ll often report that so many things happened in their weeks, that it feels like things started moving again.
To explore a bunch of these questions and pick the ones that could be helpful for you, get Evercoach’s 21 powerful questions toolkit and share it with your clients, too.
Think Bigger Tool #3: The Mind Map
The last tool I’d love to address here is the Mind Map. A fabulous use of whiteboard space whenever you have the chance. To help your client expand their thinking and zoom out, all you want to do is write down what they’re telling you while you guide them through the expansion.
You’ll tend to start with the core challenge that they present you with.
Here’s an example:
Client: My business isn’t growing anymore.
Coach: Tell me what value your business is currently delivering to its clients.
Client: It’s an advertising agency. So it brings them new customers they previously couldn’t reach?
Coach: Great. What else?
Client: It also helps them explore audiences they may want to consider as potential clients.
Coach: Fantastic. How many clients are you currently serving with this value proposition?
Coach: In order to grow your business, would you rather want to serve more clients or serve your current clients more?
Client: Serve more clients.
Coach: Great. How many more clients are you looking for?
Coach: Tell me all the growth strategies you’ve so far tested.
As you draw out your clients thoughts on a whiteboard, two things happen. First, they stop circling back and forth in their minds without conclusion. Second, they inevitably see the white spaces on the whiteboard.
These white spaces are all new opportunities, new strategies, new connection points, new avenues. Once you’ve identified these avenues, you can help them create a plan to achieve their set goal.
Thinking big has the same objective as every single coaching session. It’s to facilitate insight, new connections, new opportunities, and with that, a large amount of refreshed, positive energy.
As you zoom out of your current perspective, you’ll start to see how everything is interconnected and which connections you may want to explore deeper.
I notice that I need to think bigger when I…
… start obsessing over small problems.
… feel lethargic, tired or bored.
… don’t understand why I do what I do.
… feel unenthusiastic about parts of my life.
… get into fights regularly.
… don’t make progress in my business or career.
And when I notice it, it’s so refreshing to zoom out of the current situation and look at everything else that’s waiting to be explored by me.
I personally don’t see these tools as a way to become more powerful or successful. But then again, that likely has more to do with my definition of success than with Cambridge’s.
So, think about what is your own definition of success and what you can achieve if you think bigger. Try out some of these tools with yourself first. See if you can step out of the dull mind and get re-energised. And when you do that, drop me a comment below with what happened next!