At the beginning of this year, I identified a one-word theme for the year: Margin. It may not sound like the most exciting word, but I just sensed in my spirit that it was a word that could transform my life. Margin is breathing room. Whether in your schedule or in your closet, it is the space that keeps life from exceeding your limits. My new habit is still developing, but I think it is contagious because my husband has joined my quest for less – organizing his tool box, rethinking his work schedule, even re-organizing kitchen cabinets (I know, I’m still pondering that one – happily!)

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far is that with more space in my schedule, on my bathroom counter, and even in my garage, my heart’s desires become even clearer. So this week, we found ourselves thinking about some things we are feeling led to change. We went out for a “vision date” to brainstorm solutions and coached ourselves with a series of questions that started with a very simple phrase – a phrase that allows you to imagine “what could be.” It worked so well, I want to share with you.

This week, I invite you to consider a persistent challenge you face – one that you’d be willing to make a major life change in order to resolve it once and for all. Here’s the two-step process:

1. Identify the challenge.

For example, is your calendar to hectic? Are you miserable in your career? Have you stretched yourself too thin financially?

2. Ask yourself a “What if?” question that forces you to imagine a solution that will radically change your circumstance and eliminate the problem, not just pacify it? For example, “What if you didn’t schedule anything on your weekends and gave yourself room to relax and be spontaneous?” “What if you phased out your current career and finally pursued the career you really want?” “What if you dramatically cut your expenses so you have the freedom to work less or do something different?” These are just a few examples, but you get the picture. Write down as many “What if?” scenarios as you can. Make them bold. Make them authentic. Write scenarios that get you excited.

I usually use “What if?” questions to challenge fears (What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough), but using a “What if?” question to see radically new possibilities is equally as powerful.

3. What choices or shifts would move you in the direction of your most compelling “What if?” possibility?

Of the questions you came up with, which one is most compelling? Start there. Then begin to ponder the types of choices and decisions that would move you towards that possibility. Dreams that come from “What if?” scenarios are the real desires of your heart. Sometimes they are possibilities you simply need to give yourself permission to pursue. Sometimes they are possibilities you could pursue right away, but more often, they are long-term goals. The key is to not allow the fact that they are long-term to discourage you. Brainstorm a game plan. Start talking to others about it. And if it feels like the right goal, set it. Make a timeline and start moving towards it.