A few weeks ago I wrote an entry called “The Right Questions.” This is a follow-up or companion piece to that article. Approaching life in this manner is a passion of mine, and I’ll most likely write about it again in the future.
When I first ventured towards new horizons, a different perspective of both asking and answering questions became necessary. The volume of my new-found form of analysis was more than I’d anticipated. Some examples were clear, and the answer obvious, and some were quite cryptic. The latter of the two was meant to free certain “mental” wheels that had been poorly maintained. When I was asked “What must I do to begin building up a life of reliability?” the solution was to stop being late everywhere. There was no doubt as to the meaning of this directive, and there was no uncertainty as to the outcome of its implementation. The answer came quickly and was easy to understand. On the other hand I was frequently given nothing more than the answer with instructions to search for the question. One such example was “You limit yourself because you have a fear of success.” Quite often my goal was to come up with the question that fit the answer. Eventually I did, and the question was, “Why do I avoid responsibility?” In any case, the quality of my life improved with the quality of the questions that were being asked, either directly or indirectly.
One such question that drastically changed my life was, “If you knew you only had an hour to live and if you felt good and weren’t scared, What would you do?” It’s an old point of discussion and I’ve heard it before, but I’d never meditated on it. Once I did, my outlook on life shifted considerably. Basically I’ve gotten two answers from those who were sincere in coming up with an honest reply. Some say prayer and silence would be their choice. This is a minority answer, and I consider it an extremely enlightened one, but maybe one in twenty will state it. The majority say something like, “I would use part of my time to thank those whose lives have made mine better. Whatever was left over I’d spend in the arms of the person I love the most.” My personal response probably lies here. It’s an interesting question because no one says “I’ve only got an hour, maybe I should clean the house, or mow the lawn, or go to the bank, or even eat.” Nothing material is attached to where true value lies. Nothing. This is but one example of a high quality question.
Most seek nothing but answers when their true quest should be identifying the correct questions. My mentor used to say, “There are no right answers to the wrong questions.” If you say to the ether “Why me?” you will get lots of answers that do nothing to empower you. In return you’ll get plenty of information designed to reaffirm why you are in a place of undesirability. Logically, if the original inquiry is producing unwanted answers, then should not the opposite question produce what is sought? Try asking instead “Why NOT me?” If you want to lose weight the opposite of “Why am I fat?” is NOT “Why am I not thin?” This is the same question in disguise. It’s true opposite would be “How can I get thin?” Subtle; yes, but believe me the brain knows the difference and it will eventually churn out what is asked of it.
Subconsciously (and of course consciously) everyone has conversations in their minds designed to eliminate what is wanted and manifest what is desired. The problem with unintentionally attracting what is unwanted lies in how we word our thoughts. Think about it. If you constantly ask yourself why are you passed by for promotion you’ll get answers that are riddled with blame rather than accountability, and these will only serve self-defeating behavior.
There are several ways to stop the habit of asking bad questions.
- Stop saying “why?” and start saying “how?” It’s a one word change that will produce instant results. When “why” is the driving force of a question, you will generate excuses. When “how” is used instead, you will generate solutions. By the way, don’t revert to “how come?” That’s just another “why” in disguise.
- Stop asking yourself questions better answered by a more qualified source i.e. “How do I stop drinking?” The use of the word “how” in this case will eventually force us beyond the limits of our own minds. When we embrace outside information (oftentimes masquerading as criticism) we open ourselves to unlimited choices, and isn’t that what we should have anyway? Remember what Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” For me this means I have to stop re-arranging what’s in my own head convinced it will eventually add up differently. He also said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. It really comes down to listening more than talking; something I still struggle with.
- Start shifting your approach to life from one of doubt to one of expectation. This will automatically re-write how thoughts word themselves. Don’t generate anxiety, uncertainty, or worry about your goals; expect them and they will unfold. Get off the “what if?” ride and jump onto the certitude express. Remember, planning for the worst and assuming it are vastly different. Contingency plans are fine, but they must exist only in the background. Driving a vehicle without brakes and seat belts will force you to a crawl; whereas utilizing the car’s safety features will allow maximum confidence in both driver and machine.
Make a list of good questions and repeat them a LOT to yourself. If they are indeed high quality they will generate even more high quality questions. My top three are –
- How can I become a better man?
- How can I serve?
- How can I live without regret?
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood