Quite often we’re barely conscious of the questions we ask ourselves. However, thinking actually occurs as an internal question and answer process. Nearly every moment of our lives, our minds are generating questions, coming up with answers, and propelling us to take action based on those answers.
As a simple example, consider how you ended up wearing the clothes you have on today. When you went to get dressed this morning, whether you were aware of it or not, you probably asked yourself questions like: What will I be doing today? What is the weather like? What matches? You then answered your questions by choosing something to wear and putting it on.
You might say it’s our questions that drive our results because our questions act as a lens that determines what choices we see as available to us in any moment. (Had you asked yourself this morning, What’s the most flamboyant thing I could wear today? you would likely have come up with a very different answer/outfit than the one you chose based on the aforementioned questions.)
Whenever we’re feeling stuck or otherwise not getting the results that we want, to create a shift we simply need to reconsider the questions that we are asking.
In her book, Change Your Questions Change Your Life, Marilee Adams presents a tool called the Choice Map, which can be useful in such circumstances.
To use the tool in any situation, simply reflect on the questions you are asking to determine whether you are on the “Judger” path or the “Learner” path.
Asking “Judger” questions such as Whose fault is it? Why do I always screw up? or Why is he such an idiot? can cause us to get stuck, feel bad, and not be able to see a way forward.
Conversely, taking a perspective of curiosity and asking “Learner” questions such as What’s possible? What can I learn from this? or What do I want? can open up doors in our minds that give us access to a multitude of possible answers and solutions we couldn’t see before.
Marilee writes, “A question not asked is a door not opened.”
The next time you find yourself in a situation you want to change or improve, consider Marilee’s list of Top 12 Questions to help you work through it:
What do I want?
What are my choices?
What assumptions am I making?
What am I responsible for?
How else can I think about this?
What is the other person thinking, feeling, needing, and wanting?
What am I missing or avoiding?
What can I learn?
…from this person or situation?
…from this mistake or failure?
…from this success?
What action steps make the most sense?
What questions should I ask (myself or others?)
How can I turn this into a win-win?
What is possible?