Ask The Right Personal Development Questions

At least twice in the last few weeks I’ve caught myself asking the wrong personal development questions. One evening, after Ella had gone to sleep, Melissa and I were taking advantage of the rare quiet time to talk and connect. Throughout our time together, I noticed my thoughts drifting away from our connection and onto my full plate of work-related tasks.

Since awareness is the first step to change, even though I was frustrated by my inability to stay present with Melissa, I was actually quite pleased that I noticed my shifting attention.

But then, fueled by my frustration, I asked the wrong question.

In this case, I asked myself, “Why can I never be fully present with Melissa?”

From your neutral observation point, you probably recognize the problem with that question immediately. But, being on the inside of this situation, it took me a while to get that I was asking the wrong question.

Why was it wrong? Well, first, the question itself is not true. I can be fully present with Melissa, and I am fully present with her quite often. So the question was reinforcing and strengthening an inaccurate and non-supportive belief.

Second, the answer to the question was not what I truly wanted to know. What I really wanted to know was, “How can I be fully present with Melissa more often?” Or, “What would help me stay more fully present with Melissa, even when my work-plate is overflowing?”

The answers to those two questions give me valuable information that I can apply to create positive change in my life, while the question “Why can I never be fully present with Melissa?” does not.

I hear some of you saying, “Don’t I need to understand why before I can change my behavior?”

And I’ll say to you, “No, you don’t!”

Now realize that this answer comes from someone who has spent a big chunk of his life in hot pursuit of the whys. And, after following many long and winding roads seeking those answers, I can say pretty confidently that why does not lead to how.

Yes, understanding is important. But here’s what I’ve discovered recently:

Understanding – the why – comes naturally when you seek the how.

Why is a slippery slope. I have personally discovered that no matter how deeply you go into the “why” you can always go deeper. The path of “why” can be quite interesting, but ultimately it is a distraction from, not a contribution to, positive change.

Set your intention to change, ask questions whose answers lead to that intention, and you will naturally discover exactly the amount of “why” needed to create the change you seek.

So, in framing your personal development questions, there are two important points to consider.

First, is this question true?

Anytime you notice a word such as “always” or “never” in your question, it is most likely a false question. If you wonder why you “never have quite enough money to pay rent on time” ask yourself if that’s really true. If you wonder why you “always get into relationships with unavailable partners” ask yourself it that’s really true.

And even if, from your perspective on the inside of the situation, the question you are asking seems true, change it anyway. Because by asking a question such as “why do I never have enough money to pay rent?” you are reinforcing that belief.

Remember, what you focus on expands! Do you want to focus on why you “don’t have enough money” or “always work for nasty bosses?” Is that what you want to expand in your life? By focusing on the why, you get more of the experience.

The second point to remember is: will the question you are asking lead to the answers that you are really seeking?

Make sure that the answers you receive will contribute to the change you want to see in your life.

The answer to the question “Why do I never have enough money?” is not going to directly help you get more money.

Some alternative questions you might consider would be:

  • “What can I do to start making more money?”
  • “What steps can I take to start managing my money more effectively?”
  • “How can I begin to change this pattern?”
  • “What do I need to understand in order to change this pattern?” (Notice that this question leads to the exact information you need in order to change, without taking down that slippery “why” slope).

I think you get the idea.

The questions you ask are crucial because they determine the answers you will receive.

Some of you may have made the connection between the new and improved question I asked relative to my level of presence with Melissa – “What would help me stay more fully present with Melissa, even when my work-plate is overflowing?” – and the book that sailed into my life last week, The One Who Is Not Busy. If you didn’t make the connection, go read Improve The Quality Of Your Life By Mastering Your Focus.

Ask and It Is Given.

I have no doubt that when you ask a question the answer is given, every time. And that is why it is so important that you ask the right question.

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      3 Responses to “Ask The Right Personal Development Questions”

      1. eMoms at Home » Blog Archive » How to Become an Unstoppable Force in Business, Blogging, and Life on January 23rd, 2007 2:19 pm

        […] asking better questions, obstacles lose their grip on us. We move back. We perceive things differently. When we back up, we […]

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        […] Ask The Right Personal Development Questions (878) by Edward Mills ignited me to respond with this: The why is more powerful than the how. I can tell a person how to become rich, but they simply won’t do it if they don’t know why they’d want to. Asking why you can’t is agreeably wrong. Asking why you aren’t can drive a person to find out how to do something. […]

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