The Thursday Thesis – 7/3/2019
A wise man once told me that if I wasn’t happy with the answers I was getting, then I should learn to ask better questions.
Back then I was groping blindly for a better understanding of the world, of people, and – most importantly – of myself. I wanted to know the answers to the questions I asked myself almost every morning, as I woke up and felt so sad that I had to live yesterday all over again; sometimes sobbing under the duvet until the very last minute and I had to go to work.
How did I get here?
Why do I do a job I loathe?
Why can’t I make more money?
You get the idea, don’t you?
It’s very common for people to feel that way: I know, I’ve been there.
So when Peter talked about “better questions” I started listening to people much more closely. I listened for clues from the people around me who were more successful and happy than I was.
Just about everybody seemed happier and more successful than I was, so I heard a lot of good stuff. Over time I began to distil what I’d learned down into simple questions that I could use to help myself and other people.
And as I continued to learn and absorb information from increasingly successful and influential people I tweaked, reworked and re-jigged my questions. And over time this has become a way of thinking and approaching the business of life, at least for me.
So I’d like to share just three of my magic questions – perhaps you’d like to try one or two of them out for yourself:
1) “What’s good about this?”
Just asking this question prompts me to think that – whatever the hell is going on – there will be a positive aspect to it.
There is always a positive, but you might have to hunt around to find it. The very best way to start to hunt for anything is to define what it is you are looking for: until you know that, you can’t even begin. The old “needle in a haystack” you are looking for is even harder to find if you don’t even know you are looking for a needle: true or true?
Asking myself to find the positive in a situation distracts me from magnifying the negative aspects of it, so I tend to remain optimistic in the face of adversity. This is why I wake up every morning (and I’m still not dead, so I must be on a winning streak, right?) and ask myself “...what’s good about waking up today?”
That’s such a great question, isn’t it?
2) “...And before that?”
I am a big fan of goal-setting and making plans – I did it for years but achieved very little in the way of results. What I learned about goals is that they work, but only if I work.
When I think of goals I think fifteen years out from now, and imagine big things. Usually this means that my goals are too big, too far away and altogether too fuzzy to draw me towards them.
In NLP terms they are big chunks, and I needed to be dealing with small chunks...but how?
Well, I just ask the magic question “...and before that – what did I do before I crossed the finish line of that great big chunky goal?”
Now I have to think about, and write down, the step immediately preceding the achievement of my massive fifteen-year goal.
“...and before that?”
I ask the magic question again, and write down the step preceding the penultimate step before I hit my goal.
“...and before that?”
The magic question works backwards from the final goal to something I can crack-on with today. It will be small enough and close enough that I can handle it, and it will get done. If it’s still too big, I’ll re-ask the magic question again until I can find a small enough chunk of the task that I can do, then deal with that chunk before I move on to the next chunk.
Now that is a great question, don’t you think?
3) “...And what else?”
I use this a lot when I’m coaching and teaching – usually when my client or student has a moment of insight or clarity into their previous situation, solves a problem or experiences a shift in perception.
They’ve just had a singular moment, a revelation, if you will – but why stop at just one?
Asking “...and what else?” sends the brain off in search of more revelations, insights, solutions and answers.
Why stop at one?
If you are capable of having one great idea, the chances are that – if you ask yourself to find it – you’ll find a few more, won’t you?
So there you have it – three of the best questions I never used to ask myself, but now I ask all the time.
And whilst they’re not difficult questions, they are unusual and useful questions, helpful questions. And if you try them for size, they might work for you.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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