…and then he said, “Problems never go away.”
Speechless. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought there was a finish line. A gold star. A time when I could kick back and say, “I accomplished life. Look! No more problems. I win!”
“Problems never go away.” I heard this lesson while listening to the meditation app, Waking Up. (Highly recommend, btw!) In addition to the guided meditations, there are lessons, interviews, and a course on mindfulness.
If problems never go away…. If problems are a constant of life…. Then HOW we solve problems is pretty dang important!
So today I’m nerding out over the words we use while problem solving by identifying helpful (and unhelpful) questions for your problem solving process.
When you ask better questions, you get better answers.
Questions can create success or stress.
AUTOPILOT QUESTIONS TO AVOID
To start, understand that your brain responds to a “problem” as a “threat.” When there’s a threat, your mind wants to keep you safe. It does so by deploying it’s threat-seeking radar.
As a result, your brain defaults into this protective, but UNHELPFUL, question structure:
“Why” + [Undesired Circumstances]
If you want to increase your anxiety and start feeling bad about yourself, ask yourself these “why” + [undesired circumstance] questions:
- Why do I keep procrastinating?
- Why is this so difficult?
- Why can’t I focus?
- Why aren’t more people signing up for my service?
- Why am I not getting noticed in meetings?
- Why is it so overwhelming?
- Why can’t I keep up?
And if you want more excuses (and fewer solutions) from other people, then ask them these “why” + [undesired circumstance] questions:
- Why did this come in late?
- Why aren’t we moving faster?
- Why can’t you just listen?
- Why don’t you care?
- Why does this problem keep coming up?
Notice how when you ask these types of WHY questions, you’re setting up a response filled with excuses… and more problems.
If you’re not getting the results you want from yourself or others, then tune up your question skills.
Here’s a question structure to use if you’re wanting real solutions…
QUESTIONS FOR BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING
Here is your new helpful framework: “How” + [Desired Circumstances]
WHY questions lead to excuses and HOW questions lead to solutions.
The power in these questions doesn’t come from just swapping out why for how. The magic is in the latter part of the question equation: [desired circumstances]
Knowing what you don’t want is easy because – like we discussed before- your brain is always on the lookout for threats. Which means, it takes more effort to be clear on what you DO want.
To find your (how) solution questions, go ahead and write out your “threat-seeking” Why + [undesired circumstance] questions. Those questions are already floating in your head, so let’s put them to good use!
Next, look at your undesired circumstances. Then ask yourself, “what is the opposite of that?” Write your answers. Those are your desired circumstances. (Just like the diagram above.)
Breaking the primal habit of asking threat-oriented questions will help you find these solution-oriented questions that will bring out the best in you and those around you!
Influence Speaker & Coach
P.S. Here are a few other ways I can help you increase your influence, whenever you’re ready.
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