Updated: Nov 30, 2018
If you've ever spent any time with a four year old, you know that they ask more questions than you might've thought possible. Research has found that the amount of questions a child asks steadily goes down as they go from elementary school to high school. There is a strong correlation between the amount of questions kids feel free to ask and their level of engagement. Both tend to go down the older they get.
The power of asking great questions
Asking great questions is powerful. I was recently listening to a podcast featuring Jon Berghoff, founder of the Flourishing Leadership Institute, speak to the power of questions. Here's what he said:
Questions have the power to change your future because they provide a lens or us to change how we see everything immediately. Questions bring us into the present...The right questions elevate our well-being. They change our emotions in a positive way.
Berghoff goes on to share a powerful metaphor: A boat leaves a wake behind it, just like questions leave behind an emotional wake.
Positive psychology research has found that being in a negative state of mind shuts down the part of our brain that connects with other people, stimulates openness and creativity. The questions we ask ourselves, positive or negative, have the power to stimulate thought or to shut it down.
1. Questions to connect us to a sense of purpose.
Here's a great parable Berghoff gives on the power of why:
I walk up to 3 brick layers and as, "why are you doing what you’re doing?" The first brick layer says, “I need to earn a paycheck.” The second brick layer says, “I’m building a building. This is what I do for a living.” The third brick layer says, “We’re building a cathedral here which is going to bring people closer to their creator.
All three brick layers are doing the same thing, but each assigns a different meaning to what they are doing. Finding our purpose isn’t about what we do, but the meaning we give to it. It is meaning that leads to fulfillment. Neuroscience shows that finding purpose by asking "why" is a right-brained activity. This is the side of the brain that focuses on relationship building, creativity, and complex thinking rather than the task and logic oriented left brain.
Steps for connecting to purpose:
First pause, take a deep breath, get still and ask:
Why – why does this matter?
Why does this (client, project, relationship etc.) matter to me?
Why are we here today (to ask a team)?
What is it about my work (family, spouse, health, etc.) that maybe I’ve lost site of or taken for granted that when I re-connect with it reminds me why this work is important to me
Never stop asking why what you are doing matters. Why connects us to a deeper sense of purpose.
2. Questions that connects us to our strengths.
Steps for finding our strengths:
Go back to a time when you were your best and fully engaged. Maybe it was a time you achieved something or were apart of something meaningful, you overcame an adversity, maybe it was a moment you were thriving as a parent.
Connect with a specific story.
What was happening in that moment?
What did you bring to the situation?
How were you behaving?
How were you communicating?
How did you show up in that moment?
What were you thinking?
What were you feeling?
These questions help you connect to a time you were at your best. Write out your answers. We are studying a moment of success.
How can you take the qualities you brought to that moment into the present moment right now?
How can you take the qualities you possessed in that moment into the future?
Coming from a place of strength is not just about when we are at our best, because let's face it, we spend more times facing challenges than being in our highest state.
Reflect on a past (or present) time when you faced a major challenge or obstacle.
What is the gift within this challenge?
What is the wisdom this challenge is teaching me?
How can this benefit me?
How can this lesson serve me in my future?
Where is the opportunity?
What do you value that should always stay the same?
3. Questions that connect us to new and exciting images of the future.
Jon Berghoff leads an incredible guided visualization that you can find here, starting at minute 50 (led by Berg. This visualization will aid in connecting to the impact we wish to make in our lives, and how we want our world to look.
Berghoff emphasizes that our words often create our world. Rather than using terms like "accomplish" and "goals", which are ego driven, can we focus instead on the meaning or impact we wish to create?
4. Questions that moves you into action or commitment:
Once you have a vision of the impact you wish to make:
What actions are going going to take to move towards that vision?
What am I going to do to connect ot my strengths?
What action can I take that will reconnect me to that sense of purpose?
I challenge you to spend some time today taking a listen to the guided visualization above. Think about the impact you wish to have on your world. Getting intentional is the key to cultivating the life we envision for ourselves.