One day, my head felt overwhelmed with questions.
Things were moving. But I felt like inside I was battling with a doubt that wanted me to come to a screeching halt.
The predominant question that kept pounding in my mind was: Is this going to work?
Then I just gave in, sat down, and started to write.
I wrote down this question and all of the related and unrelated questions that were circulating in the cloud of doubt in my mind.
At that moment, I discovered a personal practice that I’ve used many times since when I feel lost, doubtful, or unsure of which way to go. It helps me take intentional action toward my goals, and it’s really quite simple:
I evaluate the questions I’m asking about my work and life and change them to questions that empower me instead of stressing me out.
We all want something in common, and that is clarity. We want to move forward with integrity and purpose.
No matter if your life feels like a roller coaster or it’s running as smoothly as ever, there is one thing that never changes: you will always ask yourself questions.
I personally believe that when you are stretching yourself to grow and pursue a dream, you will have more than one question floating around your mind. They may even bombard you most of the day.
Questions aren’t inherently bad; they can help us go deeper to understand what we need to do to move forward—if that is, we ask ourselves the right questions.
A lot of times, we ask ourselves questions that undermine our confidence in our ability to do the things we know we need to do.
Some undermining questions include:
- Is this going to work?
- Why can’t I figure this out?
- What’s wrong with me?
- Why does it seem easier for everyone else?
- How do I get this person/these people to think/do xyz?
The problem with the above questions is that they place you in a victim or scarcity mindset instead of giving you a sense of control and empowering you to take responsibility.
You know a question is undermining if it meets the following criteria:
1. It makes you feel bad
Although empowering questions can be challenging, they won’t make you feel like crap about yourself. An undermining question makes you find fault with yourself, others, or your situation. An empowering question prompts you to focus on patterns that are causing or contributing to your challenges, and it also helps you find a solution.
One way to convert an undermining question is to flip it to the opposite.
For example, change “What is wrong with me?” to “What is right with me?” or “What behaviour can I improve?” This helps you focus on your strengths, what’s working, and how you can learn and grow.
2. You can answer it simply “yes” or “no”
This might seem counterintuitive because we ask ourselves questions to find clarity, and what can be clearer than “yes” or “no”? But the reason you are asking the question in the first place is that there’s more to it than that.
Often we just want a quick answer because it feels uncomfortable being in uncertainty. But there’s something more to explore, and there is greater power in a deeper answer.
Another way you can convert an undermining question to an empowering one is to change it to something that requires a thoughtful answer.
For example, like the undermining question I was asking myself about my tiny house community, change “Is this going to work?” to “How is this going to work?” By changing the question, you are presupposing that it will work—you simply need to figure out how.
3. It defers the power to someone else rather than yourself
We all fall into potholes where we defer power, blame, and control to someone else, even those of us far down the path of personal development. When we ask questions to figure out what other people will think about us or how to get someone or a group of people to do something, we are placing our problem-solving energy outside of ourselves, where we have little leverage.
A way to convert this kind of undermining question to an empowering one is to change the focus to yourself.
For example, change “How do I get this group of people to do what I want them to do?” to “What actions do I need to take to achieve what I want to accomplish?” This allows you to lead by example, putting all of the power back in your court.
Changing your undermining questions to empowering ones can help create a lot more peace, expansion, and clarity. And when you answer those empowering questions for yourself, you may feel like you just unloaded a bag of bricks from your head.
Here is a simple process for unloading, examining, and finding answers to your own questions:
Step 1: Unload
Grab your journal and write down every question you are asking yourself about your business, work, relationships, and life right now. Write until you cannot think of any more questions and you start repeating yourself.
Step 2: Examine
Look through your questions. Are any of them undermining? If so, convert them to empowering questions, using the tools above.
Step 3: Answer
For the questions you have remaining, take time to journal your own answer to each one. Don’t think, just write and see what comes out.
You can do this process as often as you like. I find when I do it, I feel clear for a substantial amount of time, and confident, because I know I have a process I can use whenever I feel lost.