Coaching on Asking a Good Question

I'VE COMPLETED my list of suggested questions. And you now know why you should use questions to direct your mind. But before I leave this important topic, I wanted to give you another good method for asking questions. And that is by using another all-purpose tool: Making a list. A good way to use the power of asking a question is ask it on paper and then make a list of answers. Ask the question and keep writing down answers. Set some kind of target — 100 answers, for example — and don’t stop until you hit the target. I think you’ll be surprised at some of the things you come up with, and probably surprised at how creative you really are.

Or set a timer for a period of time, say an hour, and keep coming up with answers until the timer beeps. Pick one question, set your alarm, and jot down as many answers to the question as you can in that time. Don’t monitor your answers or judge them (yet). Just try to answer the question as creatively as you can.

The first few answers will be normal, predictable answers. But then you’ll run out of those, and your creativity will have to kick in.

When your time is up, go through and pick the best answers.

A freeform question-and-answer session can be productive too. By "freeform" I mean to ask whatever question comes up for you, and then answer it to the best of your ability. Then see what question comes up for you next, and then answer that one.

For example, this little freeform dialog happened when my first book was published and I was trying to get it for sale in bookstores. I hit several setbacks in a row and I was feeling dishearted. Yet the written dialog I had with myself lifted me out of my depressed state within minutes. I felt strong and determined afterwards. My fighting spirit had returned.

Q: Why do I feel sad and defeated?

A: It seems like all I do is stick my neck out, then people are mean to me, and then I feel like a loser.

Q: Why do I want to promote this book?

A: I want Klassy proud of me. I want to make a difference with my life. I want to sell lots of books. I want to make money.

Q: Would I be willing to gain those things if I had to pay for it by sticking my neck out, having some people be mean to me, and occasionally feeling like a loser?

A: Yes. Absolutely.

In that short time, I suddenly felt determined. My motivation came back. I remembered that every person I admired had experienced similar trials and hardships, and my line of questioning cast my setbacks in a new, more noble context.

The primary way of asking questions is to create a good question and then have it on your mind for several days or weeks, pondering it in your spare time. It's a good way to direct your mind, motivate yourself, increase your determination, and make lasting changes.

But the two variations I mention in this article can work more quickly. Either ask a question and challenge yourself to make a list of answers, or use a freeform question-and-answer technique. Any questions?


The Best Question To Ask

YOU HAVE seen my list of suggested questions. (See the list here. See the article on how to use questions here.) But I'm not quite finished with this powerful topic. I have a little coaching for you on the way you use questions to direct your mind. The first piece of advice is to make sure your questions do not have the word "why" in them.

A woman (Vivian) wrote to me and told me she had trouble sleeping. She had four kids and she was worried some day she would commit suicide. I was telling her about this principle of asking questions, and she tried it the very next night. But the question she pondered all night was, “why do I think I’m destined for suicide?”

Vivian said, “I was up all night answering myself! I thought of answer after answer. The list went on and on, each answer breeding more questions of its own.”

I told her that generally “how” questions work much better than “why” questions. She had been suffering from insomnia for a long time. But the very next night after she learned about the difference between "why" questions and "how" questions, she asked herself, “How can I prevent myself from ending up a suicide?” and she thought of so many good answers so quickly, she relaxed and fell asleep and slept longer than she had in a very long time.

The next day I told her about studies on suicide showing that people with suicidal thoughts who don’t commit suicide had a reason to live. That almost sounds so obvious, it seems almost ridiculous someone had to do an experiment to prove it. The reasons people had varied quite a bit. Some people didn’t kill themselves only because it would be too painful for their sister, or it was against their religion, or they had some purpose they wanted to fulfill. But the difference between those who stayed alive and those who killed themselves was simple: The people who had a reason to live did not kill themselves.

The next day, Vivian was thinking about that study and she realized she really wanted to see her boys grow up. She had four sons, the oldest was 13. She said, “I have thought before that I’m here because they need me, but it felt like an obligation. But I’ve realized I really want to see my sons grow up to be old men.”

That is a powerful realization. I'm sure you can easily grasp the tremendous difference in motivation, determination, and power between an obligation and a genuine, sincere, deeply-felt desire.

So she had a goal, and the thought was on her mind for a few days, when she told me, “I like to watch them and think about them ‘then’ and ‘now’ and now I wonder what they’ll be like when they’re older. It’s a surprise I don’t want to miss. This very thought has been in my mind the past couple of days...’it’s a surprise I don’t want to miss.’ It’s exciting and motivating.”

Do you see what happened? She had a new question she was asking. "I wonder what my kids will be like when they're older?" Her question was purposeful (since she can influence the outcome) and forward-looking. And it directly counters the thought of suicide, doesn’t it? She’ll miss the surprise if she kills herself. It’s a question that can’t be answered now. She has to
stay alive to see the answer. Brilliant, really.

She was already asking questions without realizing it. We all are. She started doing it deliberately and stopped asking herself "why" questions and it totally changed the direction and tone of her life.

It can work the same magic for you if you would only start using it. Why not start today? Wait, change that to: "How can you start today?"


The Top 25 Questions To Ask Yourself

IN THE article, The Steering Wheel Of Your Mind, I talk about the power of asking questions. What follows is a list of questions that create good results. You can and should, of course, create your own questions, but if you ever need some help, or just want a good question you can pull out and start using without having to think up any, use these:
1. What am I grateful for?

2. If I was happy about this, what would I be thinking about it?

3. What did I do right today?

4. What CAN I change?

5. Does this help my goal?

6. What does life expect from me?

7. How can I prevent this from ever happening again?

8. What is the best use of my time right now?

9. How can I use this to accomplish my goal?

10. What's good about this?

11. What is my goal here?

12. What is another way to look at this?

13. What else?

14. What memory makes me feel good?

15. Ask questions to find out more about the situation.

16. What if it really happened?

17. What abilities do I have? What am I good at?

18. What is one healthy thing I could do today to feel better?

19. What needs to be done next?

20. What good have I been ignoring?

21. How can I look at this as a good thing?

22. What could I do to make some progress on my goal?

23. Could I just do part of it for now?

24. What would be a more reasonable explanation?

25. What emotion am I aiming for?