You’re stuck on a problem you can’t seem to solve. You bang your head against the wall, coming up with solution after solution and trying desperately to figure out what’s holding you back.
But what’s keeping you stuck almost certainly isn’t the problem itself—it’s your approach to solving it. Instead of focusing on the solution, you’re defending your behavior or making a case for the validity of your problem. Your top priority is being right, not getting it right.
No judgment here. I’ve done this. In fact, we all have.
The right questions can set you free from this trap, by making clear the steps between you and your solution, clearing out any emotional filters at play, and illuminating incorrect assumptions holding you back.
If your questions don’t lead you to improved action, you aren’t asking the right questions.
To help you with this, I’ll share a story from my life that demonstrates the power of better questions, then offer a couple powerful strategies for finding the right answers.
How the Right Questions Helped My Sister
A couple years ago, while I was preparing for ASCEND, a Primal Potential weekend workshop, I invited my mom and sister out to dinner. I wanted to try out an activity in advance of the event and they were about to be my guinea pigs.
I explained that I wanted to do a workshop at ASCEND where participants could only communicate via questions. No statements or explanations, just questions.
At dinner, I asked my mom and sister if one of them would be willing to share a problem, in the form of a question, to kick off our little dinnertime experiment.
Debi, my sister, asked, “How do I balance getting out of debt and enjoying my life?”
To be honest, her question floored me. Years earlier, we’d agreed to stop talking to each other about money. Given our different approaches to finances (I’m a saver, she’s a spender), those conversations never ended well, so we’d cut them off.
After a few initial questions, we cut right to the heart it: her spending habits.
“Can you spend less money?” I asked.
Debi paused for a moment, then replied, “What if I don’t want to spend less money?”
I admired her honesty and used my next round of questions to further explore that.
“Are you really enjoying your life with the financial stress you have right now? Is this the way you want things to be? It seems like you don’t want to spend less because you associate spending more with enjoying your life more? But are you enjoying life right now? Is it possible that spending less would actually allow you to enjoy life more?”
She sat quietly. She was considering, open-mindedly this time, that maybe spending less would allow her to actually enjoy life more, not the other way around. There was something more true than the story she had been clinging to about her spending.
Since that conversation, Debi’s finances have transformed. The discipline she now brings to her financial choices has allowed her to enjoy life more, not less, because she’s gradually eliminating one of her biggest stressors: money problems.
Pause Often to Ask Yourself Questions
That short exercise with Debi was a starting point—it represented a shift in the way she was willing to think about money and her ability to create change.
The questions themselves didn’t create results for Debi and they won’t for you, either. But they did open a door that Debi then had the discipline to walk through.
To fully unlock the power of great questions, you need to get into the habit of asking them regularly. You can probably think of moments from this past week when you would have benefitted from slowing down and asking yourself the right questions.
Maybe you got worked up after a tense staff meeting, or said some things you regret after a breakup. Perhaps you gave into temptation and splurged on junk food.
Next time you confront these moments, what if you took three minutes to ask yourself questions, or called someone who was willing to ask questions of you?
You might be saying: “What should I ask myself, or have someone else ask me?”
That’s a good question! Here are a few thought-provoking ones to start with:
What’s a choice I can make right now that would leave me feeling great tomorrow?
Have I already made up my mind on this issue? If so, what led me to that point?
What actually happened? How do I feel about what happened? What’s the difference?
What to Do When You Don’t Know the Answer
You’ll get better at coming up with the right questions the more you practice asking them, but what do you do when you don’t know the answer to your question?
In my experience, we often dismiss questions by saying “I don’t know” or “I’m confused” to avoid taking ownership of our role in a solution and delay doing work.
To be honest, those responses are cop-outs.
You don’t have to know the answer, but you are capable of finding it.
“I don’t know” might mean “I need to take some action or do some work to get clearer on an answer or solution.” If that’s the case, ask yourself, “How can I find the answer?” or “What might be the answer? What are some options?”
Knowledge is not a prerequisite for action. Knowledge is an end result of action.
If you aren’t sure of an answer, take action. Do something. You’ll learn from what you try. Stop holding yourself back from action because you’re waiting for answers. Create the answers. They are waiting for you on the other side of intelligent action.
Don’t wait to think up a solution. Create it. Travel to it. Your solutions are in your progress and attention. You’ll always learn more from action than from thought.
Hey hey! I want to share with you one of my favorite things that I’m newly obsessed with! Two things, actually. They are helping me in a few really specific ways and I realized this morning that I hadn’t told you about them yet!
(I’m trying a new thing – if you’d rather listen to this blog instead of read it, click below to listen to the audio version. Do you like it? Should I do more audio blogs? Let me know what you think!)
I am really big into being productive in the morning. Crazy things always happen during the day. Unexpected commitments, delays, problems, obstacles – you name it. Murphy’s law shows up on the regular: whatever can go wrong will. It just happens.
I also believe that if I have the right attitude and focus, I’m much more capable of handling whatever life throws my way.
There are two ways I try to take advantage of the morning time:
Get my attitude right. Set the stage for how I’ll approach the day
Complete my most important things early in the day
Here’s the truth and I teach this in almost all of my courses: what you focus on you feel. If you focus on where you went wrong, what you missed out on, what stressors are ahead – you’re going to feel frustrated, disappointed and stressed.
If, on the other hand, you focus on what you’re grateful for, what you’re excited about and all the good things you’re accomplishing, you’ll feel happy, satisfied and proud.
I don’t know about you but I make far better food choices when I’m feeling good than when I’m feeling bad. If I’m feeling down, I can talk myself into eating all sorts of junk, I can talk myself out of a workout and I can talk myself into being lazy and unproductive.
So really, managing my mindset is a huge part of achieving my fat loss and fitness goals. Maybe the biggest part, honestly. It is absolutely one of my “big rocks” as I call them – the 20% of things that drive 80% of my results.
Now, onto the tools. There are two tools I’ve been using regularly lately that do so much for helping me keep my head in the right place so I can make good decisions. And I will tell you: my body is responding. My positive outlook is improving my choices and my body is changing. I’m happy.
The first is a little journal called The Five Minute Journal. I had heard Tim Ferriss talk about it years ago and more recently I’ve heard several other very successful folks say that they use it and love it so I decided to go for it. It is NOT your typical journal. It is not about sitting down to write for 20 minutes about what happened and your feelings about it. It’s really the 80/20 principle embodied in a journal (can you tell I’m loving it?).
The premise is this: you take a couple minutes in the morning and a couple minutes before bed to fill out some predefined fields that focus you on gratitude, affirmations, accomplishments and improvements. I am LOVING it. Honestly, it is making such a huge difference in my mindset and my focus (and like I said, my body is responding).
Of course the biggest challenge is actually doing it every day as opposed to having intentions but not making the time or forgetting it exists after a few days. The key for me is putting it in the place I go to every morning first thing and every night before bed. Yep. I’m not embarrassed to say that mine is in the bathroom. That’s the first stop I make in the morning and the last stop before bed! Don’t judge me!
The second tool that is making a big difference for me is a free app called Win Streak (search for it in the app store of your phone). Basically, you put it on your smartphone or tablet and all you do is note 3 wins you had today and 3 wins you’re anticipating for tomorrow. This does a few powerful things for me:
It keeps me focused on the positive. Instead of beating myself up and searching for the things I’ve messed up or opportunities I haven’t taken advantage of, I’m focusing on all the positive accomplishments in my life (no matter how small they are!)
It allows me to forecast victories for tomorrow. It’s easy to live with dread, right? Dreading what you have to do tomorrow or next week or the project hanging over your head at work. I am much happier (and happiness, for me, leads to better choices) when I’m approaching each day with positive expectation.
It has changed my perspective and motivated me in a unique way to look for and then accomplish these wins. I like the feeling of adding a win to my app. I look for ways to win and then I follow through so I can record it. Silly, but true and extremely powerful.
Have you used either of these? What did you think? What is the most powerful thing you do to start your day? Are you going to grab a copy of The Five Minute Journal? I highly recommend it!
What is one of the most common frustrations people experience when they’re trying to lose weight? Getting on the scale and feeling like your progress is not reflected in that number looking back at you. We place way too much emphasis on the number on the scale. In today’s episode we talk about how much daily weight fluctutation is normal, what contributes to it and some strategies for more effective ways to monitor your progress. I also share some of my most valuable non-scale victories.
The Challenge: Letting the number on the scale influence your emotions. Feeling incredibly proud of your progress and SEEING change in your body but throwing it all away when the number on the scale isn’t what you think it should be.
The Solution: The scale should not be your primary indicator of progress. Your body weight can fluctuate as much as 5-7 lbs each day depending on:
Beyond that, the scale is not an accurate reflection of what type of weight you’re losing. We want to burn fat. We might gain muscle along the way. That is a GOOD thing. That will make our body look BETTER. So we need to find ways to monitor and measure our progress that indicate our TRUE progress – fat loss.
Take pictures of yourself
Find a pair of tight pants or a fitted dress and put it on AT LEAST every other week. Every week is fine, too.
Take measurements of your waist, hips, bust & thighs at a minimum.
Assess your strength and endurance in a standardized way
Mile walk or run for time
Situps in a minute
Pushups in a minute
Max on core lifts like squat, bench press, shoulder press, deadlift
Celebrate non scale victories
Improvements in sleep
Cravings and hunger
Stamina while playing with your kids
Flying on an airplane without a seat belt extender