ARTICLE: Questions That Move You Forward

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“To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions.” – Sam Keen

questionI think we all get that questions are a really powerful communication tool when we?re dealing with others, but the impact of the questions we ask ourselves usually gets overlooked, and often this can be the cause of many unnecessary difficulties in our lives.

Every moment of every day we are shaping our own experience of life through our perceptual filters and the meanings we attach to what?s going on around us.

I believe the single most empowering skill you can develop is the skill of consciously choosing where to focus your attention. This is because your mind is wired to always get you more of what you consistently think about. The quality of the results you get in any area is directly related the behaviour you demonstrate in the lead up to those results. The way you behave is directly influenced by your emotional state, which itself is driven by the quality of the thoughts flowing through your mind.

That?s why I often refer to thoughts as being things. What you think about on the inside invariably finds a way of influencing the physical world around you. Sometimes this can be a subtle as a shift in your body posture or facial expression that sends an unconscious message to those around you. And other times it can be as dramatic as launching you into a very definite and intended course of action; the effects of which will either move you closer towards a satisfactory outcome or further away from what you want to experience. But unless we bring a level of conscious awareness to the kind of thoughts we are having, or at least be willing to challenge the validity of our assumptions about what things mean, then our ability to be flexible in the way we interact with the world is always going to be limited at best. We?ll continue to keep seeing things in the same old ways and as a result keep having the same kinds of experiences over and over again. Of course, if seeing things in the same old ways leads us to have lots fun and live rich and fulfilling lives then bring it on! But what about if those same old experiences continually bring pain, stress or unhappiness?

The most influential force in determining the quality of our thoughts, and therefore our attitudes and behaviours, is the questions we ask ourselves.

We ask ourselves thousands of questions everyday and yet we scarcely realise we are doing it. If you have a problem you could say to yourself ?how did this happen?? or you could say ?what can I to do to sort this out?? Both are equally valid questions, but each has the potential to send your train of thought off into completely different directions. It?s the train of thought that is generated off the back of any question that determines what you get to experience next. Now that may be the outcome of a specific behaviour, or even just a feeling. So it?s worth knowing that different types of questions lead to different types of thought.

To make it simple, I find questions generally fall in one of two categories: Disempowering and Empowering.

As you?d probably expect disempowering questions keep you stuck and they close you off from finding potential solutions. This is because they are nearly always focused on causes to problems. They are questions like:

Why can?t I do this?
Why did this have to happen?
What have I done to deserve this?
What else is going to go wrong today?
Why does this always happen to me?
What?s wrong with me?
Who?s to blame?
How come everyone else gets the lucky breaks?

It doesn?t take a genius to realise that these kinds of negative questions can only lead to negative answers.

I agree with Maxwell Maltz, the famous plastic surgeon and the guy who is considered by many to be the Godfather of modern day personal development. He described the unconscious mind as being a goal striving mechanism. Its job is find ways of turning your thoughts into reality. This means that is sees whatever you are thinking about as a target to aim for. It takes whatever coordinates you give it, by means of your internal dialogue and the images you paint in your mind, and it seeks out all the ways it can find to move you towards that reality. It also means that whatever question you ask of it, it will dutifully give you an answer, even if it has to make some stuff up!!

So if we were to use the question ?What?s wrong with me?? as an example, your unconscious mind, being duty bound to provide answers could easily comes back with something along the lines of:

You?re stupid
You?re not worthy
You should have paid more attention at school
Good things don?t happen to people like you

Obviously, these thoughts are going to affect the way you feel and therefore the way you behave. There is nowhere a question like can take you besides further into frustration and negativity. And you?re not left feeling bad because any of answers you get are actually true. You?re left feeling bad because the nature of the question itself was disempowering.

There is a great quote from Spinoza, who said, ?No matter how thin you slice it there is always two sides.? You can apply this powerful philosophy in any area of life. No matter what challenge you face, you can either drive yourself deeper into confusion and despair or you can be lifted towards a positive and satisfying resolution simply by the questions you choose to ask yourself.

For every disempowering question there is always an empowering alternative that can be asked instead. As Anthony Robbins so rightly puts it ?Successful people ask better questions and as a result get better answers?.

We?re all human and no one is exempt from doing dumb things from time to time. But if when you do something really dumb your question is ?Why did I do that?? your mind has no choice but to look for and create reasons that justify your behaviour. If on the other hand your question is ?How can I make it so that I don?t do that again? your mind shifts into learning mode and creates a plan for being more successful in the future.

Asking yourself the right empowering questions in any situation open you up to the most creative and productive solutions because they are always focused on possibilities. They are questions like:

How can I use this to my advantage?
What opportunities now exist that didn?t exist before?
What resources do I have?
Who can help me with this?
What would success look like?
What am I grateful for?
What has this taught me?
What would I love to create from this?

And my personal favourite?

Rather than ?What?s wrong with me?? – What?s RIGHT with me?

I hope that you get that the purpose of consciously choosing to ask yourself these kinds of empowering questions is not to simply put a glossy coat on a terrible situation, but to engage your creative mind and focus your attention on the choices you have that will lead to you into positive action. They are designed to intelligently challenge your unconscious to consider everything you haven?t thought of yet. They literally fire up the right hand side of your brain which is responsible for creativity and problem solving. And best of all, the answers you get are most likely to lead you into thinking the kind of thoughts where you get to feel good in yourself and gain better perspectives on the situations you find yourself in.

If you believe in the philosophy that in every adversity there is opportunity, then that opportunity can only be recognised off the back of the right question.


Homework


Start to become more consciously aware of the kinds of questions you ask yourself. Have a think about a situation or problem that you have found particularly challenging and track back over your internal dialogue. Were the questions you asked yourself about this geared towards looking for the causes of a problem or did they point you in the direction of possibilities and solutions.

Knowing how to focus your attention so that you get the best out of any circumstance is a skill that can be mastered, but it does take practice. So practice by being curious about what you?re saying to yourself. Catch yourself in the act of posing disempowering questions and simply reword them so that your mindset shifts to a more empowering standpoint.

Take great care. Namaste

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