Change Your Questions – Change Your Life: Part 2 If you feel lost, ask yourself what you are striving towards

One of the most common reasons why we struggle is because we don’t have a clear sense of what we are striving towards. Lack of clarity not only makes our daily lives more confusing, but it also deprives our lives of meaning.

But questions have the power to turn this around. I wanted to share the following story from Brendon Burchard’s book High-Performance Habits, which both captures the danger of a lack of clarity and the power that questions have to fix the situation:

Kate, the woman sitting in front of me, crying, “has it all.” 

She manages thousands of employees at one of the top companies in her industry. But she never lets that go to her head. Her bragging is limited to talking up her team.  She’s proud of how hard they work and support one another. She is also raising three children with her husband, Mike. Kate’s mother died from cancer when she was fifteen, so she puts a high value on being present with her kids.

Kate has hired me as her coach. Shortly after arriving at her house, she asks me to sit and chat in her home office. Suddenly, her voice cracks.

 

Kate: “I’m sorry, my life is just a hot mess right now.”

Brendon: “A mess?”

 

Kate: “I know. It’s silly. ‘Oh, poor me,’ right? The lady with the good job and good family isn’t happy. And yet, I feel like I’m just reinventing the wheel without getting anywhere. They say be present and love your family. I try. Every day, I try to be good for the kids and Mike. They say be effective. I have the to-do lists, the plans, and the checklists to make it happen. I get stuff done. They say be passionate at work. I am. I’ve come a long way and I’m happy and no one has to feel sorry for me. But I just don’t know…”

Brendon: “Yes, I think you do know. Tell me.” 


She pulls back in her chair. Her shoulders slump, and she takes a sip of wine as more tears break out.
Kate: “In all this running around and trying to do everything, I’m just starting to feel a little disconnected from it. Sort of . . . lost.” 

I nod and wait for what almost always comes next.

Kate: “I just don’t know what I want anymore.”

What Kate had lost was the habit of asking what kind of person she wanted to be. She hadn’t thought about a better version of herself, because she was already doing so well. 

This story has a happy ending, as Brendon would later help reignite Kate’s lost passion. What was the secret remedy? He simply got Kate to ask questions about what she wanted to achieve in life. Among these were the questions:

  • “Who do I see myself being in the future?”
  • “What three words do I want to be remembered by?”
  • “What do I want to feel today?”
  • “What makes me feel that my life has meaning?”

The lesson: Ask questions that clarify what your end goal is. The more clearly you can articulate what you are striving towards, the more purposeful your life will feel. 

Is there any area in your life were you feel stuck or like you are just going through the motions? 

If so, what questions can you ask to rediscover what you are striving towards?

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: Part 1 How to ask more helpful questions and get more helpful answers

We have all those moments when our thoughts spiral into negativity. Something bad happens to us, and our minds start raging with questions such as:

  • “Why won’t they just listen to me?”
  • “What’s wrong with me?”
  • “Who does he think he is?”

But just as the wrong questions can lead us down into a dark hole, the right questions can also lift us out and up towards brighter skies. Change your questions, and your mood and the possibilities you see will change with them. 

But how do we ask better questions? I have found three techniques that have helped me switch from a judger to an optimist mindset, which I will share with you here: 

1. Replace Why? with What/How?

We often start our questions with “Why…?”. But I believe we should be very careful with this word, because leading a question with “Why?” will often get you to: 

  • Look back to the past instead of looking forward to the future
  • Focus on what’s wrong instead of what you can do about it

In fact, if you start listing negative questions you will find that most of them start with this seemingly innocent word “Why?”:

    • Why does my son/wife/friend have to be so difficult?
    • Why do these things always happen to me?
    • Why can’t I do anything right?
    • Why bother?

In contrast, questions that start with “What?” or “How?” will often lead you to look forward to the future and to focus on solutions: 

  • What does my mother/husband/friend need from me?
  • How can I turn this situation around?
  • What’s possible?
  • How is this setback actually positive?

Of course, there are many positive questions that start with “Why?”. The key is to be aware that Why-questions have a strong tendency to lead you to the past and to problems. By being aware of this fact, you can easier catch yourself when you slip into judger mode, and instead, switch to more positive questions by leading with “What?” and “How?”. 

2. Ask questions that use the words: Can, Right, Need 

If your question includes any of the words: “can”, “right”, or “need”, you are almost guaranteed to arrive at productive answers. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • What can I do about it?
  • How else can I think about this?
  • Why am I the right person for this job? 
  • What must be true for this decision to turn out right?
  • What do I need?
  • What does the other person need from me?

“Can” makes you focus on what is in your power to change.

“Right” nudges you into a positive frame of mind. 

“Need” helps you be more empathic and pinpoint any missing elements. 

Notice that one of these questions – “Why am I the right person for this job?” – started with “Why?”. That is the power of these three words. Including “can”, “right”, or “need” can transform your question from a negative anchor into a productive springboard. 

3. Ask “Who…?” and follow with “help”

Our network of friends, family, and acquaintances is the most valuable resource we have. And giving and receiving help is what makes this network stronger. That is why I believe we should ask more questions that start with “Who?”, and that follow with the word: “help”. For example:

  • Who can help me with this? 
  • Who needs my help
  • Whom can I help today? 

The next time you catch yourself spiraling into the negativity loop, you can use these three techniques as tools to switch your mood. These three practices have helped me ask more helpful questions in my own life, and I hope they can do the same for you!