Updated: Jan 18
We ask questions to make sense of the world, other people and what’s happening around us. It’s the primary way we learn anything, particularly as children when we questioned everything about everything. However, once we’ve built up our belief system of ‘how things are’, we often stop asking new questions.
Our belief system is a product of our thinking, of the way the brain evaluates and creates meaning of the events that take place in life. It’s not the events that shape our lives but the meaning we give these events that makes the difference, and the meaning we assign depends on the belief system we've established. It comes full circle. Our beliefs determine our actions, decisions and direction.
Simply put, thinking is a process of asking and answering questions. If someone offers you something and you think, ‘Oh no, I don't want that’, whether consciously or subconsciously, you’ve asked yourself the question ‘what do I think about that?’
In the same way we created our belief system, we each develop a set of habitual questions that we unconsciously ask ourselves in response to different situations. For example, when something unfortunate happens, are you more inclined to think, ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ or ‘What can I learn from this?’ The first question emphasises feelings of lack and inevitable misfortune whereas the second focuses on optimism, learning and growth.
Changing our habitual questions can change our lives because by asking different questions we get a different answer. Questioning our limitations, for example, will shake the foundation we’ve built them on.
Next time you’re faced with a challenge or need to find a solution, observe your immediate reaction then try to find a more productive perspective on the problem such as, ‘How can I make the best of where I am right now?’
Here are some ways to ask yourself better questions
Use the power of presupposition. Presupposition programmes us to accept things that may or may not be true. A question such as, ‘Why can’t I lose weight?’ assumes the statement is true and tricks the brain into showing evidence that will support the belief. Instead, ask ‘How can I make losing weight enjoyable?’ to focus on the idea that losing weight is not only possible but doesn’t have to be restrictive or difficult to achieve.
Develop a pattern of consistent questions that empower you. It’s important to recognise and break the pattern that automatically has you asking disempowering questions. To change your state, ask yourself some problem-solving questions instead,
What is great about this problem? The immediate answer may be, ‘nothing’ but think about it for a minute and you’ll get a response that helps you change perspective
What is not perfect yet? The ‘yet’ implies it will be resolved eventually, helping you focus on finding possible solutions and reassurance.
What am I willing to do in order to improve the situation? This question is empowering and helps you focus on what is in your control.
What am I no longer willing to do in order to make it the way I want? Think about what you need to stop doing (e.g. complaining or dwelling on what's happened) in order to improve your experience of the situation.
How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want? You need to resolve the situation anyway, you might as well find a way to make things fun!
Morning power questions
It can be hard to snap yourself out of this way of thinking in the moment. If you want to get ahead of things at the beginning of the day, Tony Robbins identified the following list of ‘morning power questions’. If the whole list feels overwhelming, answer one question fully each day and see how you get on.
If you find them difficult to answer at first, add ‘could’ to the question, ‘What could I be most happy about in my life right now?’
What am I happy about in my life right now? What about that makes me happy? How does that make me feel?
What am I excited about in my life right now? What about that makes me excited? How does that make me feel?
What am I proud about in my life right now? What about that makes me proud? How does that make me feel?
What am I grateful about in my life right now? What about that makes me grateful? How does that make me feel?
What am I enjoying most in my life right now? What about that makes it enjoyable? How does that make me feel?
What am I committed to in my life right now? What about that makes me committed? How does that make me feel?
Who do I love? Who loves me? What about that makes me loving? How does that make me feel?