Last year I went out to dinner with my mom & my sister. As we waited for our meal I asked if they would indulge me in a little experiment. I wanted one of them to share a problem or a challenge they were having but they had to share it in the form of a question.
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Then, we could only respond to her about this challenge or problem with questions.
If you’ve worked with me, you know I’m a huge fan of questions. I agree with Tony Robbins who says that the quality of your life depends on the quality of the questions you ask yourself. I always add to that “and the honesty with which you answer”.
I wanted to go through this exercise with my mom & sister because I was thinking about including this as an exercise at ASCEND last year in Nashville. I believed that the activity would:
- Remove our tendency to defend our point
- Focus on curiosity instead of criticism
- Drive towards solutions instead of arguing for the problem
My sister offered to share a problem and I kind of panicked when she shared a problem related to her finances.
See, since we were in high school, Debi and I have agreed to not talk about money. I’m much more frugal than she is. She’s struggled with money since her very first job. She’s a social worker with a lot of debt and had been living paycheck to paycheck.
In the past, when we have talked about money, we’ve argued.
She has defended herself and clung to her limitations. I have criticized her and repeated the same solutions. It never ends well. We both get defensive. We both get frustrated. We both cling to our positions and nothing productive happens.
So at this dinner, when Debi led with the question about her financial troubles, I know I wasn’t the only one at the table thinking, “Oh boy…here we go…” I’m pretty sure my mom was holding her breath…
Debi asked, “How do I balance working several jobs to earn money and pay down debt with living the life I want?”
We had an amazingly productive conversation and a week later, at ASCEND Nashville, we tried to replay the conversation.
While the audio quality isn’t great, you can listen to it here.
The amazing thing about this conversation is that:
- We focused on what she really wants
- We focused on solutions
- We weren’t defending our positions but truly trying to solve the problem
This is a strategy we can (and perhaps should) use with ourselves. After all, the quality of our lives depends on the quality of the questions we ask ourselves & the honesty with which we answer.
After I pulled up that audio the other day, I texted Debi and asked if she’d be willing to tell me what has changed since then.
I remember that she had texted me that night at ASCEND, while she waited for her flight in the airport, to tell me that she had already taken some steps towards change.
ASCEND was about 9 months ago, and here is Debi’s update as of this morning:
I think that one of the biggest things that has changed for me since Ascend is that I’m taking action. I used to spend a lot of time making budgets and planning out how much I could put towards my debt, but then I would “find” other things to spend my money on. I wasn’t taking the action. Following Ascend, I just started doing it. And now, less than a year later, I have paid off over $7,000 in debt and continue to be on track to pay all of it off in 2 years.
The other big thing that has changed is my mindset. I now know with absolute certainty that I will pay off my debt in 2 years. Before, I would have hopes, but I always let something get in the way. It reminds of me the blog you did recently on the living into our problems and the stories we create. I created a story about social workers and how they don’t make a lot of money, that I didn’t go into this work for financial gain. I was living in a deficit mindset. However, now, I live in an abundant mindset. Every time I get an opportunity to make extra money, I express gratitude for the opportunity of abundance. When people in my life talk about “being broke” or “having no money,” I no longer join in. I know that I making choices in my life that are bringing towards financial freedom and I remind myself of that. I am grateful for all opportunities of abundance.
Don’t get me wrong, I still make mistakes and fall into deficit thinking sometimes. However, I no longer live or stay there. I am quick to redirect my thinking and make the next best choice.
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