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15+ Life-Changing Questions

Sometimes we just have to ask better questions to get better answers.

Allyson Lewis, 04/26/2012

All complex thought and all physical action is interestingly broken down into binary answers. Picture the light switch on your wall. It is a simple piece of machinery with two positions: Up or Down--On or Off. As you reach for any light switch, you have a clearly formulated expectation of exactly what will happen when you flip the switch.

For good or bad, we have created so many of these predetermined binary expectations in our lives. (Scientifically they are called "cognitive brain models.") Experience has taught us that it is simpler to rely on what has worked in the past rather than to reach out and start asking different questions and, even more importantly, be open to new answers.

It is not at all difficult to understand that the global economy has changed dramatically since 2008. In fact, I would say the entire face of client expectations, the understanding of risk, and the stress of uncertainty has impacted each one of our business models. My question is "How much have you changed?"

Over and over, we tell our readers, "Change happens in an instant! It happens the moment you decide to change." This is one of the key themes of our living The 7 Minute Life.

But let this thought sink in for a moment. If you have been working in the same industry, doing the same job, with the same technology and the same people for years and years--doesn't it only make sense that your brain would have created a significant number of familiar cognitive routines and models to help you process so many pieces of information?

Just a few days ago, I reached out to my community of friends and followers on the Internet and posed the following:

I have a deadline on the 15th for my next article for MorningstarAdvisor.com--the tentative title is: 10 questions to ask yourself to make your work better. Sometimes we just have to ask better questions to figure out better answers. I am hoping for 10 to 15 questions each one of us should be asking. For example: Where do I want to be 90 days from today? What are my specific revenue goals? How can I think differently to gain insight that will provide new and better results? How can we serve the clients better? How can we offer total solutions? OK, so get your brains thinking. I need 10 to 15 questions you believe might lead you to better answers. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

What follows are 15+ life-changing questions I received as answers from that post. Let these questions challenge you. Don't simply choose to read this article and mark the activity as "done," like the act of turning off the light switch. Instead, choose to disrupt that regular routine and read one question each day for the next two weeks. Take some time to think about how that question could prompt your business to become better, smarter, more efficient, more fulfilling, and more meaningful.

Q1. Lisa Montanaro
My question is, "How can you tap into your unique areas of brilliance more, and delegate the 'everything else' to someone else?"

We often get caught up trying to be great at everything--even to the extreme of focusing on overcoming weaknesses instead of tapping into our strengths, passions, and unique areas of brilliance!

Q2. Stephanie L.H. Calahan
Looking at your lead to sales funnel: Where are there holes in your communication to leads and clients? Customers leave because of perceived indifference. Do you have all the right touch points identified and a system in place to communicate the right things during the courting and sales cycle?

What is the one thing you are avoiding today that, if you did it, would move your business ahead faster than anything else?

When was the last time I did something that made me uncomfortable?

Who has a skill that I don't have (but need) that I can reach out to today?

Q3. Donna Feyen
"Why?" Why are you doing it? Why are you at your job? Why are you here? Why do you want to write a book, create a website. Understanding why you want to do something helps in the moments you don't have the energy or the time to do it.

Q4. John Arnold
What is essential and why? If I did nothing else for the next 90 days, what would be lost? Sometimes this is a rather "I / eye" opening question.

What task should I not be doing? Why shouldn't I be doing those tasks? Why do I keep doing them anyway? What am I going to do to make sure I stop doing them?

Q5. Brian Parsley
I try to ask questions that will lead to the benefit of that person. "How would your life change if...?" or "What do you believe most people think when they hear...?" This leads to more open dialogue and less interviewing. When you open with the right questions, you never have to close.

Q6. Tony Brown
Who are you? Defining a world view helps you decipher between facts and truth. I am a father with three kids who lives in Mississippi. Those are facts, but those things are not the "truth" that shape the way I make decisions. I think about the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland.

Q7. Tyler Hayden
When you get back to work, what will I see you doing differently?

Q8. Margie Morse Pulley
My question would be... What one fear/issue is living in the shadow of your soul? If we cannot address it now, we at least need to name it. Now we can know our adversary.

Q9. Jan Holloway Smythe
What is the fear that is preventing you from taking action into your next phase of success?

Q10. Jared Meyer
Always ask yourself these four questions:
1) Why am I talking to myself?
2) Am I sharing this (information) for me or for others?
3) How do I compare to the competition?
4) Why should people care?

Q11. Sue West
How do you define success--both success at your business and success in your life? If the answer is financial, then the next question is: What does that money get you? What's it all for? This will help with whether you are working for just working, working for your lifestyle, or whether your work fulfills you.

Q12. Pegine Echevarria
For my sales and for my fact-finding missions, I have been amazed at the answers I've received when I ask, "What question haven't I asked you that I should be asking you?" "If you were in my seat, what question would you be asking you?" I almost fall off my chair when they tell me what I should ask. I learn so many details that they wouldn't have ever told me, had I not asked.

Q13. Jacqueline M. Groher
What is your purpose of existing? What are the real passions in your life?

I ask myself in difficult situations, "What is the positive aspect of the situation? What should I take out of it/learn from it?"

Q14. Mike Staver
I ask, "What am I pretending not to know? What is the best and worst most likely thing that could happen? Followed by what is my specific plan in the best, worst, and most likely case?"

"If I had to ___________________, what would I do?"

My favorite question is, "Do I believe what I believe because I believe it, or do I believe what I believe because I was taught it?"

Q15. Michael Domitrz
If you were a movement, why would others want to both join and spread that movement? What are you doing to make that easy for your supporters? What is stopping people from believing in and/or wanting to spread your movement's message?

And Just One More...
Thanks so much to all of the people who were so kind to post their insightful and thoughtful questions. My final question is, "Could it all begin with gratitude?" Think back to the light switch--On or Off. For the last several years, my work mindset has only had two options--work with stress or work even harder with even more stress.

We don't have to choose to live within old cognitive patterns. In fact, by becoming aware of the old binary models, you can change your life in an instant by simply putting up different models. So now my light switch at work has multiple toggles. They include:

• Be thankful today
• Learn something new today
• Listen to someone today
• Work with focus and less distraction today
• Know what I really want to accomplish today
• Laugh out loud today
• Be challenged and win today

P.S. Please feel free to continue the ideas of this article. We would love for you to comment and post your most important questions below.

Allyson Lewis is the author of The Seven Minute Difference. She speaks about improving time-management, increasing productivity, and rediscovering purpose. Find out more about her new online video training program, The 7 Minute Life System, here. She also has a blog and a Twitter account.

The author is not an employee of Morningstar, Inc. The views expressed in this article are the author's. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar.

The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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