As you are working toward your goals, changing your daily habits and just all-around striving to become a better person, one thing that is really important to consider is the questions that you ask yourself. You must ask the right questions to get the results you want.
It seems like a minor thing, but it's actually critically important. Asking questions is one of the skills - and probably the most important one - that I learned in my 20+ years working as a physical therapist. Asking the right questions got me to the right diagnosis, which meant we could implement the right treatment.
The art of knowing which questions to ask and how to ask those questions really allows for the discovery of what the underlying challenges might be or what the true root cause of an issue is.
In this case, I'm referring to the things that need to be changed or require some healing in your life in order to continue making progress. If you don't ask the right questions, it can be impossible to get the results you want. You can end up confused and lost.
Ask questions that foster connection
I’ll get into a couple of examples below, but first, let's talk about types of questions we’re asking.
At a very basic level, you have open-ended and closed-ended questions. With open-ended questions, just as it sounds, think of a door being open and leading you to more things. But, if you have a closed-ended question, it's like you've got a closed door and, that's it, you're not going to get any farther with it.
Parents often ask closed-ended questions when their kids come home from school. For example, they'll ask, “Did you have a good time at school today?” The answer you typically get is a simple “yes” or “no.” (Does this sound familiar?)
Asking how someone’s day was is only slightly better because we usually get short responses such as “fine” and “it was good” or something along those lines, right?
None of those questions give you much of a chance to connect with people or to open up that space for improving your relationships. Instead, you want to ask more open-ended questions that require them to give you a little more information and share more about what they're feeling or have experienced. For example, you might ask your spouse or your children, “What was the best part about your day today?” or “What are you most grateful for today?”
Just changing that question a little bit completely changes your interaction with the other person.
When you're conversing with someone, or even when you're thinking about yourself and your own goals, pay attention to whether you're asking more open-ended or more closed-ended questions. See how you can change them just a little bit to get more engagement in your conversations.
Backward or forward movement?
A second thing to think about ties into the bigger picture of healing in our lives.
Think of yourself as being in the present. You have things that you are moving away from and things that you want to move toward.
Let's start with your habits. Maybe you have particular habits that you want to stop and new habits that you want to create. You might also have goals that you are progressing toward. At any point in time, we have things that we are trying to release and then we have the things that we're trying to invite into our lives and create as we move forward.
Ask questions about moving away from something, or ask questions about moving toward something.
Here's an example...
A client named Sarah (name changed to respect privacy) recently finished chiropractic school and was preparing to take her boards. She was experiencing high anxiety levels around the time constraints (since you're not given an unlimited amount of time to take the test). This was making things more difficult and stressful for her, so we have been doing some work to decrease her anxiety and help her feel more at ease when she is taking her exams.
During a recent session, I asked, ”Are there things that we can release that are causing or contributing to the anxiety you are experiencing around test-taking?” And the answer was, “Yes.” So we released a number of things for that and brought some further healing.
Even though there wasn't anything else that we could release, we weren’t finished resolving her issue yet. Then, I essentially asked the same question, but instead of asking to think about what she wanted to move away from, I asked what she wanted to move toward.
I wanted to know if there were things that we could release for her so that she could feel calm and at ease while taking her test, and I got another “yes.” We released a completely different set of things from her past that was also contributing to her difficulty with test-taking.
It simply required a different way of thinking about the challenges that she was facing, where she wanted to go and how we might release her blocks to help her get there.
So, in both cases, we essentially cleared out disruptions from her past, not only by asking questions about the past but also about what she wanted to avoid in the future. We took it a step further by asking a question about what she wanted to embrace (in the present/future).
As you think about your habits, your goals, your daily life and anything that you want to improve for yourself, ask yourself questions related to getting away from one set of feelings or emotions and moving towards another.
We often know what we don't want, but we're usually not quite as clear about what we do what. Make sure you take some time to think about where you want to go, not just what you want to get away from!
Reframe your questions completely
The third way to think about asking questions is to completely reframe them so that they're specific and relevant to you in your own life.
Another example is a story about a realization that I just had for myself recently. When I had my thyroid removed in 2011, I periodically went through cycles where my hormones and mood were unbalanced. If any of you have experienced hypo- or hyperthyroidism, you know that it can be a big, big challenge in life. For me, the experience leads to extreme fatigue. Even when I get a lot of sleep, I still feel tired the whole time I'm awake. And I also feel like I'm depressed and sad. It’s very hard to experience your day that way and still accomplish the things that you want and need to get done. I’ll bet some of you can relate!
For instance, I love having a morning routine. I get up at about 5:00am and I go through my morning rituals. It sets the day for me and I feel so good when I do it. But, when I'm feeling fatigued, the problem is that my morning routine goes out the window because I get up late and I have to get straight into my day.
Here’s how this relates to asking the right questions...
What I had been asking myself was, what can I do to quickly balance my thyroid so that I can get up early and still have my normal morning routine? Well, when your thyroid is not functioning well, there is no quick fix. It takes a few weeks to a month for that change to happen. The slow process led to more frustration because I’d still try to get up early and I was just too exhausted to succeed.
It wasn't working.
I was out for a walk one day pondering this problem and a wonderful insight came to me! The idea was to stop trying to form a habit that was not working for me. Stop trying to fit yourself into a mold that doesn’t work. Yes, getting up early and having a morning routine is a wonderful habit and a great thing to strive for most days, but not when it doesn’t work for me and my current situation.
So the question needs to be changed to be more individualized.
The completely reframed question that came to me was this...
Given the fatigue that I'm experiencing, what can I do to change my daily routine so that that I can be more productive and still accomplish the things that are important to me in my business and for my home?
If you're stuck with accomplishing something, try to completely change your question. Come at it from a new angle and see what results.
It is wonderful to have these specific habits and goals to strive for, but sometimes you might need to take a step back.
What works for some people - even the highly successful people that you want to emulate - won’t always work for you...so it’s up to you to find the formula that will.
Maybe you have particular strengths and weaknesses that are different from another person's and you can utilize them differently in your own life while still reaching your goals. You’ll change your habits yet have the same success that you want for yourself.
Asking different questions is a game-changer!
My offer and my challenge to you is to think about how you ask your questions as you go through your life.
How do you ask questions when you're conversing with your family and with friends?
How do you ask questions when you're working on your own habits and goals?
Think about different ways that you can tweak or even completely reframe your questions because when you ask questions differently, you will get different insights, different results and you will see things differently.
Asking questions is a great thing and a fantastic way to progress and grow in any area of your life!
Ask different questions to get different results
- Stop using only closed-ended questions. Make sure your questions are open-ended. You'll have deeper connections and learn more about yourself and others.
- Ask questions from the standpoint of moving away from what you don't want. It's also important to ask questions from the standpoint of moving toward what you do want.
- Try completely reframing your questions. What else can you ask that's a different way of thinking?
How has changing the questions you ask changed an outcome for you?