Change Your Questions, Change Your Life

By Greg McDonough, EO DC member, EEI Communications

As individuals, each day we face questions that shape our success and character. These questions usually come from problems that arise, like traffic jams—leading to “What route should I take now?”—or Internet connectivity issues—resulting in “How do I fix this?”

But those open-ended, reactive questions don’t give us the keys we need to really flourish. What we need are choices in order to build a strong perspective, not on problem solving, but on accomplishing goals and moving forward.

I’ve found, with the help of Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams, that proactive questions tip the success scales in your favor. By replacing judging questions with more results-oriented questions, we’re likely to get better answers and thus be more productive in our day-to-day lives.

The whole process starts by thinking about questions instead of jumping right into doing. And although I’m a firm believer in getting your hands dirty in order to learn and problem solve, Adam’s approach reminds me to appreciate the fine balance between thinking and doing.

Sure, you’ll need to do in order to fix your Internet connection, but you’re probably better off spending more time thinking in order to find the best route around a traffic jam. And in those moments of thinking is when we should be asking ourselves the questions that lead to solutions.

I’ve found this approach leads to more positivity, in general. Even if you don’t apply this strategy frequently, you still find yourself feeling lighter and less stressed. Instead of stewing in anger over a minor (or major) mishap, you remove emotions from the equation and establish an eager-to-solve mentality. And when applied to a business environment, that mentality has the ability to propel success.

Questions like “Why did we let this happen?” and “Who’s responsible?” are what Adams calls “judger” questions. These lead directly to blame, increased negative emotion, and a delayed solution. But by changing those questions to “What choices do I have to fix this problem?” and “What can I do to ensure we don’t have this problem down the road?” we avoid dishing out blame, and instead look to ourselves to start the problem-solving process.

And those are just the reactionary questions. The real motive behind this book is to enhance your thinking to avoid simply responding and take on an “offense is the best defense” outlook. Even asking yourself questions as simple as “What do I want? What are my choices? What is possible?” are all actionable steps toward the start of each day. And especially toward the start of each new venture.

The biggest lesson I learned from this book comes from developing an open-minded culture that allows for business success. Surrounding myself with staff and suppliers who develop solutions before and alongside each challenge has made my experience worthwhile and expansive.

Categories: Best Practices Company Culture members Productivity


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