I received some inquiries about asking good questions. Most of us give little thought to the role that questions play in our lives. Have you ever noticed that questions and answers arise in the mind, and you never asked for them? How often does this happen? (Wow! More questions already!)
In our minds, questions arise thousands of times a day, and typically, our brains go on a mission to answer the question. It happens that way for a few billion people every day. And, almost every single person not only accepts the question as valid but the answer that comes with it.
Understanding this and becoming aware of this process is hugely important to grasp, and here is why.
Each question captures and directs attention and energy.
Our minds seem to be incessantly creating questions to be answered. We engage in this inner dialogue, answering the internal questions and following the train of thought. The question controls our energy and attention!
We constantly ask our kids questions, with little thought to how it teaches them where to focus their energy. What if every question you ask your child is like a seed that you plant, just waiting for the chance to grow. Is the seed going to produce beauty, integrity, happiness, and strength? Or will you unknowingly offer questions that make lousy feelings, poor performance, and low self-esteem?
You become what you think about most!
William James (Grandfather of Psychology) offered this conclusion over one hundred years ago, and considerable data supports it. So, if it is true that “we become what we think about most,” shouldn’t we be giving careful attention to what thoughts we allow into our lives?
What determines what we often think about? (Is that another question?) Could it be that questions direct many of our internal thoughts? How profoundly is our state of mind influenced by the questions we ask ourselves? Do we ask questions to ourselves that often? Perhaps we haven’t noticed since we tend to do it much of the time.
Could it be that our children learn which questions to ask themselves, based upon the questions they hear from us? Do we ask that many questions?
Could it be that questions are among the most powerful tools that shape our children’s thinking direction and quality of life? What if questions could be used in a very directed and thoughtful manner to form your child’s beliefs? Could you influence how and what they think about daily?
Interesting: lots of questions. Don’t you think?
Your brain is a gigantic Google search engine: Ask & it will answer.
This metaphor is just one way to begin to think about this. Whenever we ask a question, it’s like our brains go on a search. They begin to seek answers in the form of thoughts. This ‘search engine’ also finds other questions, leading to more ideas and other questions.
At times, our brains come up with “lousy” questions. Such questions may evolve from our worst emotional history and experiences. As such, these questions have a negative bias, leading to anxiety, pain, or frustration. We can often feel ‘stuck’ when caught in a loop of negatively biased questions.
But let’s be clear: the Google brain doesn’t really care. It will do its job. Ask a question, positive or negative, and the mind will seek an answer.
In essence, it is all about direction. We set the course of our day, and more profoundly, our lives based upon the quality of the questions we ask. If our brains have the habit of good questions, then that is awesome. However, the data suggests many of us think negatively biased questions that lead to anxiety, sadness, and anger.
One Direction: The debilitating power of negatively biased questions.
I invite you to step into Zach’s world, a somewhat distractible, kind, and curious child. For just a moment, I’d like for you to imagine that you are seven years old again. The world is still a fascinating place, your curiosity is endless, and the energy you feel makes you want to move rather than sit quietly in a seat.
As you find yourself in this innocent world, imagine listening to mom or dad asking these questions.
- “I asked you to sit still. Why can’t you sit still like your sister?
- Why do you have to keep bugging her like that?
- How many times do we must talk about this?
- Stay focused, Zach. Why can’t you listen?
- What is your problem, Zach? Are you trying to make me frustrated?
- Do you want to see me get angry? Why do you keep doing this, Zach?
- Why don’t you get with the program?
- Why don’t you listen to me?”
So now Zach’s little brain is going bonkers. Right? He goes in search of the answers to these questions. What possible solutions could Zach come up with that could serve him in some way?
You don’t need me to give you the answers to this. You need to step into that world on your tendencies and become more aware of what your brain does with those questions. Try it on and see where your Google brain takes you as you try to answer those questions.
Next week, we will discuss more on this topic, but for now, I invite you to become aware of the questions you ask. Notice, is there any way for the brain to find a ‘feel-good’ answer? Or even a useful answer? If not, I would consider abandoning such questions and the thoughts that go with them.