“What if…?” - Just two words but the answer to this question could change your world!
Questions form a daily part of life and business. We ask other people questions frequently. We ask questions to collect information: to understand, to learn, and to help solve problems.
Being mindful of the questions you ask other people can make a huge difference to your life, business and career. Many years ago, back in my IT sales role I noticed that I often asked clients ‘closed’ questions – these are questions that invite a “yes” or “no” answer. For example, “Are you ready to start the project?”. The answer to this question provided me with limited information – typically just a “yes” or “no”. A more helpful question would have been “When will you start the project?” or “What needs to be in place before you start the project?”. These questions are examples of ‘open’ questions which do not invite a “yes” or “no” answer. ‘Open’ questions tend to be higher quality questions because they provide more useful information. From that point I increased my use of them!
ASKING YOURSELF QUESTIONS
We don’t go through life just asking other people questions, we also ask ourselves questions. We do this when we think. Thinking includes asking ourselves questions. These questions help us to evaluate, compare and measure. For example - we may evaluate our situation, compare ourselves to others and so on. Many of these thoughts can be on ‘autopilot’- they can be habitual thoughts – and research suggests on average we have 60,000 thoughts every day! When we ask ourselves (think) a poor-quality question, we get a poor-quality answer. This contributes to lowering our mood and if we get into a habit of asking (thinking) poor quality questions - this can create a negative mindset.
For example, the typical response to asking: “Why do I always mess up?” is “Because you’re an idiot!”. When you ask yourself a question, you are giving a command to your brain to come up with an answer. Your brain will search for the most likely response, which typically is linked to the type of question you ask. This question is actually stating: “…I always mess up”. The answer you receive: “Because you’re an idiot” is often a habitual response – and you’ll probably receive the response almost immediately because you are on ‘autopilot’. Imagine how many of your 60,000 daily thoughts could be both habitual and unhelpful?
USING POWERFUL QUESTIONS
Higher quality questions that really make you think are also called ‘Powerful Questions’. Powerful questions are an important component of Coaching. When a Coach asks their client a powerful question (at the right time) - this can provide the client with new insights into their situation. This is because they have to think differently to answer the powerful question - this can break habitual negative thinking.
Powerful questions can help the client to:
- look at their situation from a different perspective
- challenge their limiting belief
- find a new solution to a problem
- find a way forward
You don’t have to be in a coaching session to experience Powerful Questions. You just need to know how to ask yourself them. Here are a few tips:
- Say it – rather than just thinking the question – ask it aloud.
- Be mindful of using “Why?” questions – e.g. “Why do I have to do this?” as the answers aren’t typically helpful.
- Be mindful of when you ask ‘closed’ questions. These tend to start with “Is…” or “Do…” or “Have…”. e.g. “Do I have to do this?”
- Ask ‘open’ questions - start your questions with “What…”, “How…”, “When…” or “Who…” e.g. “How could I do this differently?” as this will give you a more helpful answer – something you can actually work with.
- When you ask yourself the question, pause, perhaps close your eyes and try to visualize or ‘feel’ the answer. Note – it helps to be patient as sometimes the answer may not come to you until later in the day or later in the week.
MAKING IT A HABIT
How can you get in the habit of asking yourself powerful questions?
…by using morning questions.
Asking yourself just one powerful question first thing in the morning can help contribute to a great day, as your brain will search for a high-quality response to the high-quality question that you ask. The answer you receive can help to get your day off to a great start!
Here are some example powerful morning questions:
- What can I do today to have a great day?
- How will my life be better today?
- What can I do today to make a difference to someone else’s life?
- What can I do now to stop worrying about X [insert your problem/challenge here]?
- What can I do today to resolve X [insert your problem/challenge here] that I’ve not thought of before?
- How can I make a positive contribution to the meeting today?
- How will I do things differently today?
- What am I grateful for?
- What if I did things differently today?
- What if I stopped worrying about this right now?
- What else could this mean?
Of course, you can create your own powerful questions as well.
Why not ask yourself one question each morning for the next 30 days and see what happens?
You might just change your life!
I hope you enjoyed this blog, if you did, please like, comment and share.
“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, "What else could this mean?”