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If You Want Better Answers, Start By Asking Better Questions

The following is adapted from Chasing Cupcakes

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.

For more advice on asking better questions, you can find Chasing Cupcakes on Amazon.

405: 3 Strategies For Massive Change

405: 3 Strategies For Massive Change

“If you don’t believe in affirmations, go into your child’s bathroom and write ‘I am a loser’ on their mirror.”

I posted this quote on Instagram the other day (with the disclaimer “please don’t actually do this, whether you believe in affirmations or not”).

The email responses that came from that post told me loud & clear: we need to talk about the way we talk to & about ourselves.

That’s what today’s episode is all about – how and why we need to change the way we talk to & about ourselves.

Lots of people know their negativity isn’t helping, but they feel like they can’t stop it.

Today I introduce 3 powerful strategies to help you make the single change that could make the most difference in your progress & overall happiness:

  • The neutral redirect
  • The empowering redirect
  • The positive redirect

Don’t miss it!

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Resources

In today’s episode I mentioned that I created a list of my favorite products from Thrive Market. You can download it here.

In October 2019, our relationship with Thrive Market changed. They decided to put their marketing dollars in avenues outside of podcasting but we still think they’re a good choice if you’re looking to save money on health & personal care products.

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405: 3 Strategies For Massive Change

236: 10 Ways To Be More Productive Today

I think we all want to be more productive. We want to be less stressed while making more progress towards our goals.

That can be a tricky thing to balance because we see the pursuit of our goals as demanding that more get done. We see being more productive as getting more done. In both cases, we feel overwhelmed before we even start because we just don’t have enough time to get more done!

However, to be more productive, I don’t think you need to get more done. To make more progress towards your goals, I don’t think you need to get more done.

In today’s episode I’ll talk about how you can be more productive without doing more and while accelerating your progress towards your goals!

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10 Ways To Be More Productive Today

While many of these strategies might seem like common sense, I don’t want you to discount them on those grounds. Instead, ask yourself, “Am I consistently implementing this?”

Knowing the strategy or being familiar with a concept doesn’t matter. Do you live it? Is it yours? Do you have room for improvement? Is it a habit for you?

Don’t reject the obvious – implement it. If you want to be more productive, it’s not about what you know, it’s about what you do and what you do consistently!

  1. Start
    Interupt your perseverating on the plan and the overwhelm and take 5 minutes of action in the direction of your goal. Train yourself to leap into action. As I shared from one of my FLFT clients, “action is your pressure release valve!”
  2. Change your language
    Work towards no longer thinking or saying things like “I’m so busy/stressed/overwhelmed”. We share these statements like a badge of honor and they don’t do anything to help us be more productive. Instead, replace those thoughts and words with things like, “What I will do next is…” and “What I can do is…” or “What I’m working on now is…”
  3. Question everything
    Does this item need to be on your list? Does it need to be done? Does it need to be done today? Are you the one who needs to do it?
  4. Check your priorities
    The purpose of a task is to move us towards a goal. Unfortunately, I think we get into a routine of being busy, without ever questioning if the tasks we’re doing have anything to do with the goals we have. So, review your tasks and make yourself identify what goal, if any, that task moves you towards. Is that goal important? Is there a goal?
  5. Stop rushing
    Catch yourself when you’re rushing through one task to get to the next. Catch yourself when you’re thinking about what’s next instead of focusing on what you’re doing now. By slowing down, we often go faster and create efficiency.
  6. Be honest about your distractions
    If you want to be more productive, look at what is getting in the way of your productivity. What are your most common distractions? Put them on paper and then ask & answer the question, “what can I do to minimize this distraction today?”
  7. Set a timer
    Build your focus endurance. Start small, with just 5 minutes of focused effort. Most of us have very limited endurance when it comes to focus. Create it and build upon it.
  8. Stop working
    Don’t go from dawn to dusk without dedicated “rest” time. If your rest time includes folding socks or returning emails, you’ll have an over-inflated sense of the time you spent working and you won’t ever feel recovered or rested. Even if it’s 15-20 minutes per day, implement focused rest time.
  9. Establish a routine
    Routines create efficiency and efficiency increases productivity. It doesn’t matter if your routine is 3 minutes, 30 minutes, 3 hours or more, work to establish routines to increase your efficiency.
  10. Don’t believe everything you read (or hear)
    Don’t blindly implement the strategies of others. Pay attention to what works (and doesn’t) for you and do those things.

Resources

Fall 2016 Fat Loss Fast Track

Join me at ASCEND in Nashville!

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405: 3 Strategies For Massive Change

208: The Truth About Food Guilt

What is food guilt? We’ve all done it to ourselves, one bad food choice leads to throwing in the towel on the entire day. That gross feeling and disappointment with ourselves, that is food guilt. Beating yourself up and assigning emotion to your food choices is the essence of food guilt.

Looking at yourself as good or bad based on your food choices – that is food guilt.

Here’s what I want you to consider: Is it working for you?

Is it improving your choices or is it keeping you stuck in a negative cycle of your own creation that leads to more choices you feel badly about?

Does it help you feel better about yourself, or help you make a better choice the next time you think about cheating? Chances are it doesn’t, and it never will. So you’ve got to stop beating yourself up over FOOD!

In today’s episode, I’ll be diving into why food guilt doesn’t work, why you should stop it, and what you should be doing instead.

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Let Food Guilt GO!

The choice you made was in the past! Don’t let a past choice affect your current emotions or your future choices. Let it go, and MOVE ON. Instead of focusing on your bad day, focus on what is next and how you are going to push forward to achieve your goals.

Create a Different Strategy

Food guilt is only making yourself miserable about choices you’ve made in the past. You can’t move forward if you are focused on the past. It is time to get rid of old bad strategies and create new strategies to move towards your goals in a positive light.

We have to eliminate what doesn’t work & embrace what does. Does food guilt work for you?

Be Objective

Don’t assign unnecessary emotions to decisions that should be objective. Food is neutral!

Take a step back from your food choice and ask yourself, does eating this get me closer to my goals? If I eat this how will it make me feel immediately? How will it make me feel in a couple of hours? How will it make me feel tomorrow? Take your answers into consideration, make the choice, and MOVE ON. Don’t spend time dwelling on the choice you made. Focus on your next choices!

Practice looking past the immediate consequences. Ask yourself hard questions about the choice. How will this food choice make you feel about yourself as you are laying in bed tonight? Will this choice stall your overall progress towards your larger goals?

Examine 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Order Consequences

Don’t ignore 2nd and 3rd order consequences for immediate satisfaction!

A 1st order consequence would be what happens immediately after a decision is made (i.e. The great taste of the cookie!). People who focus solely on 1st order consequences struggle and sabotage their overall goals.

A 2nd order consequence is what happens later, but not necessarily long term (i.e. The cookie may trigger cravings and doesn’t satisfy your hunger). A 3rd order consequence would be a long term consequence (i.e. The cookie does not push you towards your fat loss goals).

Examining your 2nd and 3rd order consequences may not come easy, and can take a bit of practice. Those who consider these consequences are more aligned with their goals and are more likely to achieve them.

Every Choice You Make Is A Lesson To Be Learned

Find a lesson in every choice you make, and implement that lesson into future decisions. Make your choices productive for you and you will accelerate progress towards your goals.

Not every correct choice will be an easy choice, but it is important to understand objectively why you are making that choice and move forward after the choice is made.

Resources

Why You Should NOT Go To ASCEND

Podcast About ASCEND:  203: Happy Anniversary, Primal Potential (Will You Join Me?)

Save the Date for ASCEND Nashville!

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405: 3 Strategies For Massive Change

206: My #1 Fat Loss Recommendation

OK, you’ve decided to make a change, but you have no idea where to start (or restart). Today’s podcast will dive into my #1 fat loss recommendation: tracking.

We aren’t talking about calorie counting, carb or macro counting, just some down and dirty quick journaling. In less time than it takes to obsessively count your item of choice (and with far less frustration), you can learn more about what is and what is not working for you. It’s easy, it’s quick and it’s crucial to laying the groundwork for finding a solution that works for you.

I’ll be talking about what to track, when to track, and most importantly WHY we track.

I’ve even created a totally free tracking cheat sheet and template for you. You can download it now by clicking the button below.

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My #1 Fat Loss Recommendation

Tracking! Think of it like a journal. You don’t have to spend time worrying about exact calories, or even exact portion sizes. What you are really after is a documenting what you ate and how it made you feel.

It does not need to be a chore. You can get this done in less than 5 minutes each day. Ultimately, it will help you establish trends and analyze those trends as  a tool in our weight loss journeys.

Why You Should Track

1. To learn more about your body and what works for you

2. To keep you objective.

3. To anchor yourself to your goals

What You Should Track

Food and Feelings. It is that simple. If you get in a workout, add fitness, too!

Food is easy, just track what you eat (approximately how much), and when.

Feelings don’t have to be hard, but it is the most important. Include your hunger, cravings, and energy over the course of the day. I encourage you to expand past the basic feelings and include your mood, the quality of your sleep, and events that occurred during the day. These really helps create a comprehensive picture of what exactly is going on in your world.

Most everyone should be able to effectively track in under 5 minutes a day.

Where You Should Track

I’ve created a tracking cheat sheet and template to get you started. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it!

Learning From Your Document

Revisit. Revisit. Revisit.

Take time to look back through your tracker and identify trends.

Analyze the food you are eating and correlating body reactions. Analyze your workouts to identify how that affects your energy level and hunger.

Resources


Free 31-day journal

How To Track Without Counting Calories

Save the Date for ASCEND Nashville!

Support The Show

Subscribe in iTunes

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