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Paolo, what do you want to do? Over the course of the past 8 months I got this questions about…a million times or at least it seemed like a million times to me.

About a year ago to the date, I was probably sitting in my porch, having lunch in the sun while at home in Smart Working with my wife and kids. The Pandemic was a concern, but in our area it was more of a vague threat. I was about to complete my eighteenth year in a Fortune 500 company, with all the amenities that an executive in such an environment enjoys. I’m honestly ashamed to say it out loud now but “Life was good”.

Fast forward to July 2020. After an open and honest conversation, me and my company decide to part ways, not a totally “out of the blue” decision, but still a discontinuity in my life flow and the first of a number of tough moments I was about to experience in the months to come. This was also the first time I got the “WDYWTD” question. It was brought to me by my coaches in the outplacement company I started to work with. Quite frankly, I did not know the answer. I did not know the options, there was a difficult-to-predict scenario in front of us (in the meantime our area had become one of the worst in the country, Covid-wise). I felt at the same time sorry, ashamed and plain sad for having left-lost my job but as well excited and almost exhilarated by the idea of designing a new trajectory for my life.

While soul searching, I started to collaborate with a company or better with its founder, who asked my a totally different question during our very informal interview process “Who is your father, who are you?”. He planted an extremely powerful seed for my thoughts, I will always cherish that conversation under the tree in the company garden. As I was adapting to the the reality and quite frankly having fun, I almost lost my right eye and needed to go through emergency surgery (“WDYWTD Paolo? Shall we intervene on your eyes?). During the recovery process I went through things as “WDYWTD? Come back to work or take a rest for a few months (Financially we were under no pressure)?”. So in the end I decided to go back to work as soon as possible, I wanted to be active and useful. I was sort of back on track, starting to make plans for the future, I even started a Business coaching program and I had all intentions to take my degree and start my practice.

Then my family was run over by a train, so to speak.

We lost my aunt and my father, our lighthouse, our guide, to Covid-19, while my mother managed to survive, alone without her sister and her husband of almost 57 years. We were broken, I was broken. Robotically going through the necessary tasks that needed to be taken care of when someone dies, getting the WDYWTD question dozens of times a day. The most ironic thing is that two days after my father passed away, I was offered an “Almost dream job”. Again “WDYWTD, Mr Chinetti?”. Frankly I was on the brink of a breakdown, saved by my usual sarcasm, almost laughing to the most bizarre and wrong time for that opportunity to knock at my door. I stayed where I felt I could find the right environment to heal and it was the most natural and spontaneous choice.

This was the moment I realized that, sometimes, it’s ok not knowing what I want to do. As an engineer, a manager and a father, I learned how to plan, to set objectives and progress towards them. Lacking simultaneously several foundational pillars of my life at once, I felt like floating, not knowing then and not entirely knowing now what I want to do in life. Sometimes life is just too difficult to be navigated with that question. So my brain started to look for places to anchor, answers to better questions to live through those moments and probably in general. So I chose a set of new powerful questions to lead and these are my THREE BETTER QUESTIONS to drive my actions, specifically in an immensely chaotic context.

WHO DO I WANT TO BE? Based on who I am, on my history, who do I want to be in the future? What are my values, what do I want to stand for, to represent, which attributes would describe me if asked to someone who knows me well? It has to do with content as well as image of self.

WHO DO I WANT WITH ME? Which kind of people, personalities and characters do I want to surround myself with?

WHAT LIFE DO I WANT FOR ME? How would I design my life as an user experience, what is the vision of my ideal day, work day, family day, friends day?

I find these questions way more helpful than the ugly WDYWTD in a number of situations. Perhaps it’s because they are about perspective and future, problems then become obstacles on my way but I can at least see the path in front of me. While they may not imply easy answers as well, it’s pretty easy to rule out the scenarios, the people, the values I DON’T want to be part of my future. I can almost see myself wiping them our of the whiteboard as I shake my head saying “NOPE” to incompetency, dishonesty, rudeness, senseless processes and routines, perpetual complaining..the list goes on.

This requires dreaming, which I get isn’t always easy especially when I am knee deep into actual emergencies. Those dreams need to become a vision and when they do, the actions follow, I know what to do in a more relevant and strategic context, the context of the life I want to live, being my better self, surrounded by the people who makes me happy and contribute to my personal growth. I can almost feel the ties in my stomach being undone in the process.

I felt the need to write this down, I realize now how this is about how I’m coaching myself and I am being coached towards my vision, or out of a nightmare if you prefer. Even if I’m still relatively close from my starting point, my better questions are helping me to progressively move forward.

If you’re curious about where my path leads to, or you can relate in someway to my experience, feel free to reach out or comment.

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