Asking the Right Questions

Are you asking the right questions?  Perhaps more basically, are you asking ANY questions? Asking the right questions is critical for success in work, life and spiritual growth. As coach and holistic practitioners, it is central to our work as well.

Let’s explore why questions are so essential to living fully.

We often discuss ways to be more hopeful and live a grounded life,  one filled with joy and fulfillment.  Let’s start with a useful question: What gets in the way?

One of the signs that a person is off-course is living too much on autopilot.  That means letting the unconscious and others direct your life. It means being run by habits and routines, continually putting out fires in order to complete to-do lists ─ and starting all over again tomorrow.

Here’s another question then: How do you get out of this Groundhog Day kind of existence? How do you stop the momentum of hurry and worry and break the cycle?

In order to bring in more hope, aliveness and wisdom, pause and start to question. In other words, be aware of whether you’re just reacting and continuing on uninterrupted.

Take a breath… Explore what’s in this moment, as well as take in the big picture.

Here then are three ways to start asking good questions:

1. Coming from the heart 

Years ago when we first started studying coaching, we came across many coaching questions lists, like the 100 top coaching questions.

Trying to figure out how to use these questions quickly revealed a problem with this list approach. Although many of the questions were good to know about and sometimes even usable, they were more of a reference than a practical tool.

Trying to fit questions into a specific real-life situation can be too formulaic and simplistic. Even if the question made sense to use, with so many possibilities how would you even know how to target the right question in the moment that you needed it?

The better answer on how to formulate good questions is by following your heart. Your heart can feel into the moment, into the other person and the situation. Then the right question can be asked.

Yes, there are valuable go-to questions to be aware of like, “What are you looking to accomplish?” or “What might be your next step?”

Of course, over time you naturally intuit the right questions.  Your experience provides a data bank to draw on and you can sense the appropriate heart-focused question in the moment. You are aware that each person and situation is unique and ask accordingly.

2. Ask questions, instead of giving statements 

A great way to use questions is when you want to make a comment, or maybe give advice. In that moment, turn your advice into an inquiry.

Instead of making a statement, turn it around into a question.

Here are a couple examples:

Statement:  “It wouldn’t be wise to meet him at a bar since you’re trying to stay away from alcohol and protect your health.”

As a question: “Would meeting him at a bar be a good place?”

Statement: “You need to forgive her.”

As a question: “Would this be a good time to forgive her, does that feel right?”

3. Living the answers 

Just as a good parent allows their child to make mistakes, we must allow ourselves to make mistakes too. It’s facing the inevitable and what is. Those mistakes aren’t permanent – everything can be learned from, grist for the mill.

Part of the challenge here is our need to have certainty, mostly as a security measure. Yes, we all want a certain degree of predictability and safety.

Yet “Our culture, replete with advice, quick fixes and simple answers to complex questions, places little value on tolerating uncertainty, on moving through disruption to repair, on the path to creativity,” write Ed Tronick and Claudia Gold in The Power of Discord. 

But we can be different. We can embrace uncertainty, despite its discomforts. We can venture into the unknown where new discoveries await us. Being open to uncertainty brings more novelty and creativity into our life.

Let us turn to one of our favorite quotes by poet Rainer Marie Rilke, “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Final Thoughts on Asking the Right Questions

As you come more from the heart, you lead your life as more of an investigator and explorer. This approach takes you forward into living the answers.”

As you come more from the heart, you lead your life as more of an investigator and explorer. This approach takes you forward into living the answers.

Here’s to you making it a wonderful life, well worth living and celebrating!

Phillip and Jane Mountrose