How Might I/We?

Sounds like a question, but actually it’s much more. These three little words suggest that there is always an answer even if it is not immediately apparent. In fact, how-might-I/we? encourages us to dig a little deeper and get beneath our preconceived notions and cultural conditioning. It’s a radical, mind-opening approach that costs nothing and can lead to big breakthroughs.

We first encountered this model at a day long session at IDEO, a Palo Alto design firm and innovation generator, courtesy of the Purpose Prize summit. Here’s a quote from IDEO’s thinking on community that gives you an idea of what they are about: We believe that the power of community is stronger than that of a single individual, organization, or brand. Beyond the physical, cognitive and emotional factors of design, we foremost consider the social factors, asking questions and evaluating answers: How might the user’s relationships influence or motivate behaviors? How might an experience be shared with others? What is the meaning of belonging, and of identity? What drives the feeling of membership or loyalty to a bigger cause or group?

A good place to apply the how-might-I/we question is to the time of life still (despite all the evidence to the contrary) known as retirement. Let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, that you won’t be following the beaten path of your parents’ generation into the ‘role-less role’ they took for granted. Lots of reasons why your future will follow a different model, and not having sufficient funds is just one of them. If you’ve been paying even casual attention to the longevity revolution, you sense that something big has changed.

Recently, we were at a retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Sitting around a picnic table were eight individuals ages mid-40 and up. Seven of us had parents in their late 80s or 90s; one had an 86 year old mother who kept a busy volunteer schedule in her community and had no intention of slowing down. Clearly, this woman wasn’t settling for any so called age-appropriate role.

Between midlife and truly old age (whatever that is) is a phase most life-cycle experts haven’t given as much attention to as they might (and will). So if you often feel that you are up a creek, one paddle short, you are not alone. You’ll be better off imagining what you want out of the next 20 or more years. Set yourself free from preconceived notions of what you ‘should’ be doing, and be guided by the possibilities of discovering something you really love, whether for a paycheck or the fulfillment of giving back in some way. Innovate. Use IDEO’s How might we/I question when you have an important decision to make. You may be pleasantly surprised at how you answer.

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