If you are serious about personal development, you will get serious about questions! I can honestly say that until 20 years ago my view was that questions were simply sentences with a question mark at the end of them – big deal! Now you cannot shut me up from talking about questions. Why is that the case, I hear you ask?
Let’s start by sharing some interesting research that few people are aware of. We all have something like 60,000 thoughts every day and typically will have about 95% of the same thoughts again tomorrow as what we had today. How boring! It is clear that we have lots of routines and habits that ensure our thinking becomes habitual and routine and, let’s face it, many of us procrastinate and don’t deal with issues, meaning we repeat the same thoughts again and again.
Now if you are happy for life to stay on the repeat cycle, this fact may not bother you. However, if you are serious about developing and being the best version of yourself possible, you will want to do something about this habitual thinking, particularly when we appreciate some wise words from the Buddha about our thinking:
“You are what you think.”
Whilst I love philosophy, and recognise how profound this quote is, let’s also consider the quote in the form of a model:
Quite simply the model is telling us what the Buddha has told us for thousands of years YOUR THINKING IS REALLY IMPORTANT! In fact, we can see that our thinking is creating our results and, if we change the word ‘results’ to ‘life’, then it is clear that our thinking is creating who we are. So having an awareness of our thinking and changing it for the better, has to be paramount to our success.
I mentioned previously that my passion is questions, so let’s check in to understand the most profound thing about a question. When I ask you a question, what does it enable you to do?
I hope you shouted out - THINK!
How amazing is that! A question enables new thought and we have already learnt that when your thinking changes things in your life can dramatically change.
A question is actually a gift! I am sure you’ve never thought of a question as a gift before but let’s acknowledge that ordinarily we don’t get many new thoughts and a new thought has the potential to powerfully, positively and profoundly change your life!
As a simple example, I recall a gentleman who believed he was too old to fulfil one of his life goals, but when he asked himself the question “If there was a way that dream might still be made possible, what could I do?” he immediately came up with an idea that he put into place and several months later he achieved a goal that he previously thought was impossible!
There are a few ‘golden rules’ to be aware of when asking yourself questions, the first being to be mindful of asking yourself what I call a ‘better question’. This means that it is an open-ended question that directs you to think of a solution rather than keep you stuck. For example, “Why can’t I?” will loop you into excuses whereas “How can I?” will lead you towards a solution. Generally, I find that questions starting with “what” and “how” will give you the best results.
The next thing to be aware of is bringing an open mind to the dialogue you will have with yourself. Going back to the example of the gentleman who found a new idea to fulfill his dream, he could easily have responded to the question asked of him by repeating his limiting belief that the goal was impossible. However, he kept an open mind and was prepared to challenge his assumptions and in the process he was able to have a completely new and breakthrough thought.
Perhaps it will be useful to remind you of one of my favourite quotes at this point:
“Your mind is like a parachute – it only works when it is open.” Anon.
My final tip that I will share with you is to allow time for answers to formulate the question you just asked yourself. Sometimes answers will be instantaneous, which is great, but if you ask yourself a thought-provoking question, it can often take a while for the answer to become apparent. So, it is essential to bring patience to your practice of self-questioning in the knowledge that your mind will answer most questions, if you can wait for the answer to come.
I hope by now that you are starting to share my excitement and passion for questions. Asking yourself Better Questions to challenge your thinking and create new thoughts is undoubtedly one of the most simple, yet profound ways to your personal success.
Meet Our Contributing Author — Lindsay Tighe
Author and trainer, passionate about teaching people to use Better Questions to empower themselves and others. Learn more about Lindsay’s work here.