Most of us probably have heard at some point that it’s important to “ask the right questions”. But what does that mean, and how can we effectively use questions to get our desired outcomes?
Whenever we ask a question, our brains automatically and involuntarily respond to it. Our habitual questions shape how we think, what we focus on, how we respond, and hence our outcomes and the quality of our lives. Successful people simply ask better questions that empower them, and lead them to great answers and solutions. The right questions can instantly shift your feelings, focus your brain on what’s important, and uncover new resources and solutions.
In this article, we’re going to outline how to ask the right questions and use questions in 5 powerful ways to transform your results.
How to Ask the Right Questions to Get Positive Outcomes
1. SHIFT EMOTIONAL STATES
If you’re feeling depressed or hopeless, asking the right questions can immediately shift your focus and feelings, to get you out of the dumps and into a more constructive frame of mind. In his book “Awaken the Giant Within“, Tony Robbins shares many powerful examples. For instance, instead of asking “why am I so upset?”, ask “how can I find joy at the moment?”. When disaster strikes, rather than ask questions like, “why me?”, ask “how can I use this?” and “what do I still have?”.
2. SOLVE PROBLEMS
Problem solving is about asking the right questions, not finding the right answers. For example, instead of asking “How do we get to water?”, success nomadic societies asked, “How can we get the water to come to us?”. When you ask questions like “how can I get 10x better results?”, your mind starts to seek out new options you may not otherwise consider.
In “The Personal MBA“, Kaufman highlights 2 powerful sets of questions – The “5-Whys” and “5-Hows” questions.
• To identify root causes of problems, try asking “why” 5 times, e.g. “Why am I constantly overwhelmed?” (Ans: there’re too many things to do). => “Why are there too many things to do?” (Ans: Everyone is dumping things on me) => “Why is everyone dumping things on me?” (Ans: I don’t say no) => “Why don’t I say no?” (Ans: I don’t want them to feel upset with me) => “Why don’t I want them to feel upset with me?” (Ans: I want to feel accepted and appreciated). When you understand the root causes, you can take appropriate action (e.g. in this case, it is true that you won’t be accepted and appreciated if you draw your boundaries politely and responsibly?)
• To identify possible solutions and next steps, try asking “how” 5x, using the same approach.
In “Awaken the Giant Within“, Robbins also recommends 5 problem-solving questions to help you reframe your challenge:
1. What is great about this problem?
2. What is not perfect yet?
3. What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
4. What am I willing to no longer do in order to make it the way I want it?
5. How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want it?
3. QUESTIONING SELF-TALK
Questions can be a powerful alternative to affirmations. In “To Sell is Human” Daniel Pink suggests that you use questioning self-talk to prepare yourself before a sale or a difficult task. Instead of affirmations like “I can do this” or “I will achieve this”, ask yourself, “Can I do this?” or “Can I achieve this?”. Then, list down 5 reasons why the answer should be “yes”. This is even more effective than affirmations, as you’re focusing your mind on your intrinsic motivations, as well as strategies and answers needed to complete the task.
4. CONSCIOUSNESS WRITING
Leonardo Da Vinci is undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses of all time. He was constantly asking great questions at the heart of core issues, and searching intensely for answers. Da Vinci recorded at least 7,000 pages of notes during his lifetime, jotting down ideas, thoughts, sketches and impressions whenever they came to him.
Besides jotting down your questions and observations, try combining questions with “consciousness writing” – Think of a question (e.g. “How can I double my profits this year?”, “How do I fulfill my purpose in life?”), and give yourself 10-minutes of distraction free time to write down whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, nor whether the content makes sense. Simply allow the words to flow uninhibited for at least 10 minutes. Set a timer, and don’t stop writing until the time is up. Then, go through what you’ve written and circle out key themes that surfaced, and you may just be surprised at what can emerge from the depths of your consciousness. You can repeat the process by zooming deeper into these themes. [Get more details + ideas on how to use good questions from our book summary of “Think Like Da Vinci“].
Ask yourself: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
• ONE Thing: Pick only 1 (not 2 or 3) most important thing.
• Can do: take that possible action. It’s not “should do”, “could do ”, or “would do”.
• By doing it, everything else is easier or unnecessary.
By asking this question over and over again, it will help you find the most leveraged action that can bring you the best results. You can apply this question to both define the big picture (direction for your life and its key, related elements), and the small focus (the smallest next move you should take immediately).
So there you, are the 5 powerful ways to get better answers and transform your results. But, this will only work if you apply it. You don’t need to use all 5 – just pick any approach that resonates with you, and take action today!