Power of asking questions

 “An empowered life begins with serious personal questions about oneself. Those answers bare the seeds of success.” –Steve Maraboli,

We all are born with innate curiosity and a natural ability to question. As young children, we constantly evaluate as to what things mean, to understand everything intuitively and explore by asking questions. We learn to think and grow by seeking answers to make sense of everything. However, by the time we are adults, we stop asking questions. This is mainly because as grown-ups we tend to put more value on answers than asking questions. In reality, the questions we ask ourselves or others could very well be a powerful motivating force and equally demotivating that can not only influence our decisions and actions positively, but also negatively if they are not framed in the right manner.

Questions determine everything you do in life, from your abilities to your relationships to your personal or professional goals. Because of their very nature, questions naturally focus your mind on thinking strategies that help expand the possibilities and find solutions to the challenges that confront you. They set off a processional effect that can impact your thoughts in new perspectives. Either consciously or unconsciously we spend most of our time questioning ourselves regarding our decisions, ideas or actions when it comes to our daily goals or activities. Questioning our limitations to probe the validity of an assumption, analyse the logic of an argument or to explore the unknown keeps you unstuck in your personal or professional endeavours.

As the wise saying says, “Only the inquiring mind solves problems,” unless we ask the right questions, we will not get the right answers. And if asked or framed in the right way, they empower in overcoming the limitations that stand between you and your objectives and point you to right answers. So, if you want to change the quality of your life, you should ask quality questions to direct your focus, thoughts and emotions in positive ways .

Quality questions create quality life.

It is not the events that shape your life, but the way you interpret and evaluate your life experiences and this plays a vital part in who you become or who you are as a person. In other words, the way you evaluate, interpret and create meaning out of your life events determines the type of decisions you make and the actions you take. The evaluations we make are nothing but questions and in a way, these questions determine our thoughts. Studies have revealed that people are more likely to do a task if they pose it to themselves as a question rather than a command. When you word a task into a question, it turns into a challenge where your brain works on coming up with ideas that you are more likely to act upon. Just like how we access files in a computer with the proper commands, we also can access information from our brain through power of asking questions.

But quite often, we get habitual in subjecting ourselves to disempowering questions like in the form of accusations that emphasise our past failures or our insecurities about future. Questions like ‘What’s the use?’ ‘Why can’t I succeed?’ or ‘Why even try, since things never seem to work our way?’ or ‘Why me?’ can self-sabotage your efforts in accomplishing what you want to. In any given situation, you can either focus on what is empowering or disempowering and the answers you seek mostly depend on the type of questions you are subjecting yourself to.

You can only unleash your inner power by asking simple but yet empowering questions. Asking empowering questions brings you closer to answers or solutions and can change your beliefs about what’s possible. Empowering questions can help you find more positive meaning in any given situation. On the other hand, disempowering questions make you sink into the habit of blaming others, events, or circumstances and make you unproductive and un-resourceful.

The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions.” Claude Levi-Strauss

Power of asking quality questions

Quality or self-empowering questions have a deep meaningful purpose that enable you to take benefit of the opportunities that are in front of you. They stretch you out of your limitations be it in your personal or professional life. Learning to ask empowering questions can pull you through tough times, conflicts, obstacles and can help you find your purpose and passion. When you are faced with any kind of problem, framing it into a question lets you organise your thoughts around the problem and come up with possible solutions or helps you to explore new opportunities. Also, when you ask quality questions to others, you are more likely to get responses that have valuable information which help you grow personally or professionally.

How empowering questions work?

⁃ Phrasing questions constructively can help shift perspective and influence how you view yourself, others, events and circumstances. A resourceful, optimistic and solution-focused question will expand your perspective on how to present yourself with alternatives or opportunities which you would have otherwise not considered.

⁃ Most of us have an unconscious habit of asking habitual questions that focus on unwanted objects, people, circumstances or events which make our minds dwell on the things they ask about. Such questions intrinsically influence our emotions negatively and put you in negative frame of mind leading us to stress, anxiety, worry, fear and anger. Whereas quality questions allow you to expand on the possibilities of positive state of mind that create curiosity, intrigue, enthusiasm, passion and on solutions.

⁃ By dwelling on certain questions, you tend to delete anything within the external environment that is not consistent with the answers you seek. When you focus on aggravating a problem, it is very much likely that you will be completely blinded to the solutions that are seemingly within your reach. You tend to delete everything that does not correspond to your habitual unhelpful questions. Insightful questions help you shift your focus from expanding the problem to finding its possible solution. Often asking as to why is this a problem? or using ‘What if’ or ‘how might’ changes what we consciously delete and enables to explore the solutions in new perspectives.

⁃ Unhelpful questions like ‘Why it is always me?’’Why can’t I make this work?’ ‘Why am I not seeing the results yet?’’Why does this always happen?’ deplete your emotional strength you need to move through obstacles and challenges. Instead, asking empowering questions like ‘How can I get better at what I do?’’What else can I be doing to improve myself?’ ‘How do I increase my opportunities?’ can help you in overcoming the obstacles and you no longer tend to focus on things that make you feel overwhelmed and overloaded.

⁃ Quality questions help you to find your passion and purpose. Self-questioning makes sure you are pursuing the opportunities that are best for you. In your goal-seeking, it is important to ask helpful questions to adopt to changing things around you. They encourage and direct you to acquire new skills and fresh approaches. Self-questioning helps in adopting to change and opens up opportunities or possibilities to inquire, learn and improve yourself.

Power questions you can ask yourself ?

Where you are in your life at this very moment is very much a direct reflection of the questions you habitually or unconsciously asked yourself over time. If you are not happy or contented with one or more areas of life, it is time to identify your habitual unconscious or unhelpful questions and ask different set of questions that not only empower you in your personal life but also improve your ability and potential to achieve your goals professionally. Here are some power questions you can ask yourself to improve your personal productivity.

Am I focusing on my passions?

If you are not passionate enough in what you do, you won’t be motivated to overcome the obstacles that puts you in the way of success. Even if you had started on something passionate, your passion can fade over time. So, it is important to check on your motivation. If you feel like your passion is waning, you need to change to sustain yourself emotionally to clear your mind.

Asking ‘What inspires me the most?’ ‘What am I best at?’ ‘What do I love and desire?’ ‘What activities allow me to be creative?’ ‘What is my definition of success?’ ‘What are my true passions?’ ‘What accomplishments am I proud of?’ ‘What drives me to be my best self?’ can help you in pursuing your passions for long-term.

Am I learning from my mistakes?

The answers we receive depend upon the questions we are willing to ask. We all come across some failures and make mistakes on our journey of self-growth and goal-striving as no body is perfect. However, it is important to learn from them so that you don’t repeat. When you face a setback or an obstacle, and if you value learning, you might be willing to answer your own questions of, ‘what can I learn from this situation?’ ‘How can I learn from this problem so that this never happens again?’’How can we improve this?’ ‘How can I use this situation constructively?’ In doing so, you will change your focus, your state and the results you’re getting.

Am I overcoming my limitations?

Our core beliefs have the affect in what we consider possible or impossible and also thus affect the questions we will even consider asking ourselves. Many of us would never have asked the question. ‘How can I turn this around?’ simply because of our limiting beliefs. Be careful not to ask limited questions, or you will receive limited answers. The only thing that limits your question is your belief about what’s possible. Our beliefs affect the questions we will even consider to ask ourselves. Ask questions that ‘What are my limiting patterns? Where will my limiting patterns lead me in long run? How will this change my life if I don’t come out of my comfort zone? Such questions can give you leverage to push yourself beyond your limitations, help you set new goals and aid in coming out of your comfort zone.

How can I use this situation ?

Remember that it’s not only the questions you ask. but the questions you fail to ask, that shape your life. Sometimes, when you face difficult circumstances or when you have to take a critical decision, you have to ask yourself ‘what’s great about this’ and ‘How can I use this?’ This not only opens up new perspectives but also gives you access to resources and strategies you might not otherwise realise you have available. Practice asking some downside questions to make you better prepared to handle worst-case scenarios like ‘what if it doesn’t work?’ or what must I do to handle the negative outcome? Develop new routines and processes that allow you to handle such difficult scenarios.

Am I focusing on my priorities?

As human beings, consciously, we are limited in the number of things we can focus on simultaneously. Whereas unconsciously our mind is used to do all sort of things. Prioritising on what to pay attention to and what not to pay attention helps in focusing on important things that you have committed yourself to in your personal and professional life. Ask yourself self-empowering questions like, ‘What are my priorities?’ ‘How do I go about prioritising?’ ‘What are the important areas that i need to focus on right now?’ ‘What am I really committed to?’

Am I self-sabotaging?

The specific words we select and the very order of the words we use in our questions (presuppositions)can cause us to suppose or assume beforehand or take for granted in advance and not even consider certain things. Presuppositions makes you accept things that may or may not be true. For instance, if you ask yourself “why do I always sabotage myself?” after something ends disappointingly – you set yourself up for more of the same in future. Disempowering questions tend to wrap you in cycle of excuses, blame and problems. Questions like ‘How can I stop self-sabotaging?’ ‘How can I make or do this better?’ ‘What can I do in order not to self-sabotaging myself?’ can help you overcoming some of your self-fulfilling or disempowering presuppositions. Do not accept others’ or your own disempowering presuppositions.

Am I communicating authentically with others?

Curiosity is the innate desire to learn more about yourself and to understand others. Striving to know why something is done or the way it is and how helps you challenge ideas and explore the unknown. Asking others questions about them through authentic conversations leads to gaining a correct understanding of them. When you demonstrate authentic intent about them, they open up about the experiences that helped shaping them. Asking them what they care about the most or what their passions and interests can improve the interpersonal communication and results in better relations.

Am I focused on solution-seeking?

When you come up against problems, asking problem-solving questions gives you access to solutions. ‘What is great about this problem?’ ‘What is not perfect yet?’ ‘What can I do to seek a solution?’ ‘What am I willing to do in order to solve the problem?’ ‘What values guide my decision?’ ‘What is the best solution I haven’t considered yet?’ ‘What is the opportunity in this situation which I am missing?’ ‘How can I successfully overcome this problem?’ By asking yourself solution-seeking questions, you can deal with problems that will constantly change your focus from exacerbating the problem to seeking its solution.

To conclude:

The patterns of questions you constantly ask will create either depression or enjoyment, indignation or inspiration, misery or happiness. Ask the questions that will uplift you to your full potential.

So, are you asking the right questions to yourself? Think of the questions you habitually ask yourself in the area of your work, finances, relationships, your abilities, or passions. Are they self-empowering? Are your questions focused on your priorities and passions? Are they solution-seeking? Are your questions limited in anyway?

Q) What useful questions, about yourself (and life in general) could you start asking today?

Q)What problem have you solved recently due to asking good questions of yourself or others?

Q)Which empowering questions you can build that will help you in the process of achieving your cherished goals?

Q)What are the most useful questions you can ask that can create more opportunities or unlock new insights, ideas and solutions

Q)What questions you must ask yourself to reach your highest potential or to overcome your self-defeating habits?

To change your life for the better, you must change your habitual questions and to do so requires practice. Harness the power of asking questions by practicing the above mentioned strategies to empower yourself and to make things work or better in your endeavours. With conscious effort you can begin to identify your habitual unhelpful questions and can develop a habit of asking quality questions that challenge your assumptions or status-quo thinking. Decide what’s most important to you and use power of questions to begin to take action to change the quality of life.

Turn your adversity into opportunity

Success is not to be measured by what one accomplished in life, success is to be measured by what one overcomes while trying to succeed.” – Booker. T. Washington

How do you respond to adversity or when things don’t go to plan? Do you become aggressive or do you disconnect from life and hide? We all experience difficult times in our work and personal lives often through situations or circumstances outside our control and struggle with some obstacles and hardships. But while some people endure hardships and overcome the adversity, some cannot. They might give up when faced with similar circumstances. How you deal with difficult circumstances and obstacles life throws your way depends on your patience and perseverance. You can either let these obstacles bring you down and take you into a downward spiral or you can use them to motivate and lift you up. The key difference is how you perceive and respond to adversity or obstacles you face. If you consider them as bad and try to avoid, you end up closing your possibilities and avoid taking risks. On the other hand if you take them merely as challenges filled with opportunities to endure, learn and grow, you can profit from them both physically and emotionally. The ability to persevere such situations is the only difference between a successful outcome and a failed outcome.

When it comes to accomplishing your goals, you might face short-term failures along the way, or sometimes you may struggle as it might take longer than you expect. Even while making some change in your life like creating new habits, developing new skills or learning new concepts, short-term failure or challenges or difficulties can drain your motivation. They even might make you want to quit before you’ve put in enough time and effort to reach your goal. And how you respond to such failures, setbacks or difficulties when pursuing your goals depends primarily on your mindset and willingness to persevere. What ultimately makes you successful is your choice to persevere and overcome adversity or hardships. In the end, it is perseverance that translates into success.

So, What is Perseverance?

It is defined as your inner drive to persist steadfastly in pursuit of an undertaking, task, or goal even if hindered by difficulty, setbacks, obstacles or discouragement. It is continuance in a course of action in spite of adversity or opposition and is a necessary skill to overcome setbacks or failures. Perseverance enables us to take risks, learn from our failures, and forge ahead with new and better information.

It requires regular practice to develop the quality of perseverance. Only with strong determination can one achieve his/ her goal by perseverance.

Why is it important to practice perseverance?

Most often, people who accomplish great things no matter what field they are in, understand that failure or an obstacle is not a stumbling block but a stepping stone. They are the ones who have succeeded enduring hardships, challenges, or failures at some point in their life. Should you quit when you face obstacles or adversity? Should you quit if you are not able to achieve goals fast enough? Should you quit in case of disappointment or self-doubt?

The answer to above questions depends upon how much you are willing to and can persevere in times such as these and how hard are you willing to work towards overcoming such situations. And how much you can overcome further depends upon the foundations you base your life on. Those who built solid foundations as a base for their lives develop the persistence necessary to overcome adversity or setbacks. Take for instance, sumo wrestling, an ordinary person would have absolutely no chance of winning against a professional sumo wrestler. This is because of the gap in skills they possess. Professional sumo wrestlers practice in the ring everyday so they become strong, solidity and speed. When faced with someone like this, ordinary person would not be able to exert enough strength and naturally defeated. The same can be said of encountering troubles in life. By practising perseverance, you can be better prepared to face such situations in your personal and professional pursuits.

Strengthening your foundation by building on your internal resources like emotional and strength, resilience, courage and patience can prepare you mentally for any possibility and you can remain in control of your emotions and actions without creating much friction. And you can form a clear perspective to persevere. Through her research, Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit: The power of Passion and Perseverance, has identified four psychological assets that most perseverant possess.

Passionis important be genuinely interested in what you are doing so that you are intrinsically motivated to keep going even when things don’t work out the way you initially thought.

PracticeThe next step is developing the discipline to practice your passion. Your intentional actions help you develop productive habits that can support you to get better in case you facing obstacles or failure.

PurposeDeveloping a greater purpose where your work or actions or outcomes are beneficial to others and not limited to personal gratification can help you overcome short-term failures and struggles.

HopeHope or optimism is what lets you challenge yourself when things get tough so that you get back up and keep moving forward. You can cultivate emotional strength and courage to persevere in the hope that you will overcome.

How to persevere through adversity

Adversity causes some men to break, and others to break records.”- William Arthur Ward

Adversity often provides us with a learning opportunity that can help us in improving our true potential. However in order to turn adversity into an opportunity for growth, you must first be able to adapt yourself well to life-changing situations. And the strength to persevere through them often comes from your internal attributes and learnt skills like acceptance, resilience, and being self-aware. Here are some ways to strengthen your resolve to persevere and turn adversity into opportunity to grow.

Flip your thinking

Just think about how you see the situation and the story you are telling yourself. The attitude you bring to the situation is reflected in the thoughts you allow yourself to dwell upon consistently while facing adversity. These thoughts manifest in internal dialogue that manufacture your emotional experiences that either empower or weaken your resolve.

If you are thinking of the setback as a negative experience, then reflect on the story you are making up about the circumstances. If it is empowering then you will be more focused on solution that help you move forward. But if it is based on blame, excuses and complaining, then you fall victim to your negativity bias where you close yourself to positive alternatives. Stay self-aware if your thoughts and emotions you bring forth into the situation. Stay objective and try to change your narrative to more empowering and meaningful that can help you persevere through the obstacles.

Questions to reflect: Am I being self-aware of my thoughts and emotions? What story am I telling myself? Is it empowering? What is the problem here? What can I learn from this experience? What can be done to improve the situation? How can I move forward in a better way?

Let go of your expectations

Fully accept your present situation by letting go of expectations you are holding on to. Challenges will come while pursuing your dreams, vision and goals. When dealing with bigger goals, acknowledge that things don’t always go according to your expectations. Holding onto your expectations makes you confined to fixed mindset and will not help you effectively deal with the situation you are in.

Expectations not only create resistance to alternative perspectives but also create internal conflict. Instead of holding on to your expectations of a particular outcome, accept the fact that you are experiencing an obstacle and try to see things more rationally. Clinging on emotionally to a particular outcome or the way you want things to turn out may not let you see the things clearly. Acknowledge that there are certain things beyond your control and choose to respond to them in positive ways.

Questions to reflect: Am I holding onto realistic and helpful expectations? Am I being attached to a specific outcome? Are my expectations flexible? Are there other alternatives to consider? Am I reasonable in my expectations of the outcome I wanted? Which alternative perspectives can help me in overcoming this situation?

Take one step at a time

Adversity and setbacks can often become overwhelming or knock you off balance. Many of us react to such unexpected circumstances hastily or rather unprepared and cannot take actions that will help you better the situation. This will result in making other mistakes and eventually end up regretting. The best way to persevere in the face of obstacles is to take a pause, assess and identify the problem. Break down the problem into smaller steps.

This helps improve focus which subsequently allows you to gain more clarity about the situation and about possible options to solve. Think of why they arose in the first place. Although not every obstacle is a result or a consequence, a personal reflection always helps to understand your bigger aim or sense of purpose and can come up with solutions. This way, you can display resolve against the odds and lay down the action steps you can take to help solve the problem.

Questions to reflect: How could I present this situation in the form of a question? Is there some solution that I am undermining or not considering? What process must I follow in order to solve this ? What part should I tackle first? How will I tackle this part of the problem? What is the first action step I must take?

Build your external resources

Cultivate a supportive network of friends and family. When you feel overwhelmed and anxious, just talking through helps. Often you might discover a friend who has had a similar experience and can help guide you through the difficult time. Nurture supportive relationships. Psychologists call this social support. According to their studies, social support enhances your physical and emotional health. A mind open to communication will think a way out of difficult situations.

Supportive relationships shield you from the negative effects of stress. Surround yourself with those people on whom you can rely, talk to, open and share your feelings. It can also serve as an opportunity to share ideas and get to know alternative perspectives or solutions. Don’t compare yourself with others. Everyone’s journey is different. Instead be inspired by others to persevere when you face criticism and opposition.

Questions to reflect: Am I building supportive relationships? Am I aware of any friend or coworker who endured such hardships? Whom can I rely on to persevere in the face of any obstacles or difficult situations? Am I being supportive of other people in their struggles when they go through similar challenges and hardships?

To conclude,

Think about a goal or a dream you are currently working towards. What obstacles stand in your way that might take you off-course? How are you prepared to handle those and overcome? How do you respond to obstacles or challenges? How do you perceive or what story you tell yourself? What is your willingness to persevere? How strongly you believe in the purpose of your goals ?

There is no such thing as success without failure or obstacles. The question is not about whether or not you will encounter challenges but when obstacles arise, you mustn’t quit or change directions and must be prepared to endure and persevere through them. Turn them into an opportunity with the help of above strategies and questions to mentally prepare for such moments and to build momentum you need to move through them successfully.

If your focus is on succeeding in life, then you also should learn how to respond to adversity or failures or obstacles or hardships. Regardless of your situation, you need to develop these essential skills to put forth the necessary effort and move forward after setbacks. Set yourself a long-term goal, connect deeply with its purpose, take action towards that goal and allow that to pull you through.

Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better.” – Jim Rohn