The Questions We Ask Ourselves

Aaron Lieberman |

A world of questions is a world of possibility. Questions open our minds, connect us to each other, and shake outmoded paradigms.

Marilee Adams

In Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, author Marilee Adams describes her vision of how individuals, families, institutions, and communities can be transformed by the "spirit of inquiry":

Our orientation would shift from one of answers and opinions to one of questions and curiosity. We would see quick judgments, fixed perspectives, and old opinions give way to exploration, discovery, innovation, and cooperation.

Adams further explains:

What makes this kind of change so practical is that it begins with each one of us, right here, right now. We have only to ask the right questions to begin.

Similarly, Jacqueline Kelm believes that we live in a world our questions create. In her book, Appreciative Living, she writes, "The internal and external questions we ask steer our thinking, attention, and images in one direction or another which in turn directs decisions and creates our experience."

Most of us realize how important questions are in our daily interactions—it seems we are continually either asking a question or responding to a question. What we are less aware of are the questions that we continually ask ourselves. Our internal dialogue exists so automatically that we are barely aware it is happening.

What develops are patterns of thinking that shape the way we view ourselves, view others in our lives, and view the world in which we live and work. As Kelm explains, although it is impossible to monitor every thought that runs through our brains, it is possible to become more aware of the question and answer "habits" that guide our lives.

Adams agrees with this perspective and takes the concept of internal questions one step further in terms of personal empowerment. She writes, "The ability to intentionally shift our internal questions puts us in charge of our own thoughts.

To help us in this process, Adams has developed the Judger/Learner Mindset model to facilitate self-observation and to transform our internal questioning patterns. She explains that in any given moment or circumstance we are either operating from a "Judger" mindset or a "Learner" mindset.

For example, when operating in the Judger mindset we are, of course, judgmental of others and ourselves. We are also likely to be reactive and automatic in our responses, inflexible and rigid in making decisions, and only consider our own perspective as a valid viewpoint. A sampling of Judger Questions include the following:

• What's wrong?
• Who's to blame?
• How can I prove I'm right?
• How can I be in control?
• How could I get hurt?
• Why bother?

In contrast, when operating in the Learner mindset, we are accepting of others and ourselves, thoughtful and intentional in our responses, flexible and adaptive to change, and will readily consider the perspectives and viewpoints of others. A sampling of Learner Questions include the following:

• What works?
• What am I responsible for?
• What are the facts?
• What are my choices?
• What can I learn?
• What's possible?

Adam’s concludes, “We all ask both kinds of questions, and we have the power to choose which one to ask in any moment.” Therefore, the goal is simply to look inward and ask ourselves the following questions:

• What questions am I asking myself?"
• What mindset am I in right now?
• Where do I want to be?"
• How can I change my internal questions to bring me closer to achieving my goals and becoming the person I want to be?

Source: The Art of the Question by Marilee C. Goldberg, Ph.D. as cited in Change Your Question, Change Your Life by Marilee G. Adams, Ph.D.

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP