Archive for the ‘questions and answers’ Category

The Most Important Thing to Know About Questions: ‘Why’ You’re Digging a Hole

Friday, August 1st, 2014

struggling to the topWhen you’re in a hole, stop digging!

Questions, questions, questions. There isn’t a day that goes by that someone, somewhere, isn’t asking the question, “Why?” It seems we have a persistent and insatiable desire to understand the cause of things.

And it’s led me to believe there must have been a genetic advantage for our ancestors to ask that question. Why else would we have developed such a fondness for asking it?

An inquiry into why we saw an effect in the world helped us understand its yet unknown mysteries and led to an increased chance for survival. For instance, looking for the cause of dewdrops led to our ability to create water from condensation.

Asking why was the right question, in the right context, yielding the right result. It allowed us to create more of the effect we wanted to see—water.

But, there’s one thing you need to know about questions. They’re going to take you in different directions, depending on the context.

As it turns out, being genetically predisposed to ask why might not always be good for you. It’s a question that can get you into trouble when used in the context of personal improvement—because asking why leads you backwards towards cause, never forward toward change.

Asking why you’re having a problem (the effect or result) is looking for cause. Metaphorically speaking, it’s a shovel question. You’re looking for reasons and causes.

Why does this always happen to me?

Why do I feel this way?

Why s/he like that?

Why am I so (fill in the blank)?

Why can’t it be (fill in the blank)?

You’re digging into the problem, trying to understand and unlock it’s mysteries. The more you ask why, the more information you’ll gather up. And it’s a seductive question, because it feels fruitful. You’re producing a result. But is it the result you’re looking for?

At the end of all your whys, you may find the cause—but more often than not, you’ll only end up with a hole you can’t fill in. What’s your priority, to understand the problem … or solve the problem? Unless you’re looking to recreate the result (more problem), put down the shovel and stop asking why.

Because the result you’re really looking for is to create or develop something other than the problem.  And for that, you need more useful questions. Remember—right questions, right context, right result.

What’s missing (what belief about myself or the world, what perspective, attitude, capability, talent or skill) that if I had it—right now—this couldn’t possibly be a problem for me?

What do I want to have happen, and what steps do I need to take toward it?

Who do I know (either living or dead) who can act as a model for me—someone that has already solved this in their own life? How did they solve it?

Taking the information you gather from these powerful questions will find you well on your way toward creating something other than the problem.

And if you, like so many others, have been digging a hole? That hole you’ve been digging will soon be filled in with enough solution to pour the foundation for a whole new something else.




Truth or Consequences? Pick One

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

“When it comes to The Truth, all of us are liars.” (sayings by lp)

Truth can never be measured in absolute terms of truth-y-ness (yup, I just made that up).

Truth is relative … it’s not absolute.  What is unquestionably true for any one individual or group is often questionable to another.

Just ask Republicans and Democrats.  They can look at the exact same evidence and use it to support their own version of The Truth.  Which is just their way of saying what they believe to be true.

You might ask, “How does this happen?”  Well, chalk it up to the fact that GrayBall the Brain is a meaning making machine.  It’s constantly evaluating situations and circumstances to assess what they might mean.

When we’re children, these meanings are almost exclusively about who we are, and our relationship to the world around us.  These meanings later come to shape the Truths we come to live by . . . in other words, our beliefs.

Unfortunately, all this is taking place at a time when Brain is woefully lacking in “executive function,” not to mention life experience.  It’s not able to assess whether any given meaning is healthy or toxic.  Keep in mind that it’s essentially making the meaning up in the first place.  And the meaning it’s making up?  That’s what makes this so crazy – because it’s no more true than any other meaning it could be making up, if only it knew to make it.

Are you beginning to see the problem here?

But wait . . .  it gets even crazier.  Because once GrayBall makes up a meaning, it then looks for evidence to support it, which it then uses as a way to ‘make true’ its meaning.

So, although we might think that our beliefs are founded on evidence, it’s really the other way around.  We believe something is true; therefore, we see evidence that it is.  There’s a saying, “If you walk through the world with a hammer, you’ll find a lot of nails.”

Did you catch the fundamental flaw in all of this?

That’s right … Brain doesn’t look for counter-examples that don’t support it’s meaning. Like a heat seeking missile; it’s only looking for what it’s looking for … never what it’s not.

And, because it didn’t look for counter evidence to begin with, it will never look for it in the future.  That’s why people continue to carry a felt belief that they are not capable, or good enough, or (fill in the blank) even after accumulating of a ton of life experience (evidence) to the contrary.

GrayBall makes up the meaning, finds the evidence, and then convinces itself that the meaning it only made up in the first place is – in fact – the only possible Truth.  Ultimately creating a situation in which no other meaning can then exist.

And if that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.

This is why it’s nearly impossible to have a sensible discussion about what’s True and what’s Not True.  And it also explains why it’s a futile endeavor to try to talk someone out of a belief… especially when it comes to themselves.  GrayBall has tricked them into believing that what they think about themselves is verifiably true.

So depending on how you look at it, unfortunately, there is no Truth-o-Meter.  There’s no way to measure absolute Truth.

But fortunately, there’s something we can measure.  And that’s the result any particular Truth has on our lives.

Simply stated, we can measure the consequences of holding onto a belief.  Rather than focusing on whether or not something is True, we can ask whether it was ever useful to believe it in the first place.

That’s why I am always more interested in the consequences of a Truth over its relative truth-y-ness.  One I can measure.  The other?  Well, it just starts arguments.

So here’s a challenge for you.

What Truths are operating in your life?  What do you think is true about you?

And, more importantly, what do these truths cost you in terms of happiness, fulfillment, passion, enthusiasm, or optimism?  Are they supporting your success or are they undermining it?

Because if your Truths are questionable, the results of hanging on to ones that don’t support you are not.

So pick one.  Truth? … or … Consequences?


Looking for Answers? Why Sometimes the Question IS the Answer.

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Do you have a “Change Agent” in your life?

You know. The kind of person who spurs you on past challenges, encourages you to take chances, and forces you to get real with yourself?

The really good ones manage to do it by getting you to believe it was all your own idea in the first place.

Throughout my life, I’ve had several of them. Some I’ve had to pay for the privilege.  But with some, its part of the privilege of their friendship. My friend’s name is Ray Justice.

Some Change Agents get you going by placing a ‘big boot’ up your lazy fanny.  These are the kind that end up telling you what you didn’t necessarily want – but absolutely needed – to hear.  You find yourself catapulted into things you never dreamed of doing before.

Other Change Agents soothe you along, offering tea and sympathy.  They’ll help you pick up the scattered pieces to make something new out of the old –  and end up convincing you that it looks much better that way anyway.

In Ray’s case, it’s neither. You see, Ray’s particular gift of provocation is as charming as it is disarming. He simply asks great questions.* Not only does Ray ask great questions, he asks them with such a genuine and innocent curiosity that there is no point in trying to wriggle out of answering them.

Frequently leading with, “Now, you don’t have to answer me, but I’m just curious . . .”   he follows up with some ridiculously simple question. Like, “Have you ever (considered, thought about, asked yourself) what you are not paying attention to in this situation?”  And then, he just shuts up, raises his eyebrows and looks at you.

OMG! Of course, I hadn’t ever considered (“what did he just ask me?”) before.

But I sure am now.  In fact, I’m positively, compulsively considering, thinking about, and asking myself  “whatever?” And sometimes I’ll go on thinking about it for days . . . often with the worst case of mental indigestion imaginable. It’s like trying to riddle out a Zen koan, for God’s sake!

Now the reason I bring this up? A few years ago, his question to me ended with, “What you could teach me?”

My short answer to this was, in fact, not so short. It turned out to be a pretty inexhaustible list. Because it depends on what you want to know, I guess.

Which brought me to my own questions, “Why would anyone want to learn that? What’s in it for them?”

I mean, just because you could teach me how to crochet a Nativity Scene doesn’t mean I’ll be rushing onto E-Bay in search of a yarn sale anytime soon.

So the drift between what I can teach – I make a mean pot roast, by the way – and what you might want to learn from me might be an important thought to consider.

And so in launching our blog, Jim and I both spent a lot of time considering what our collective answer to that question might be.

So this is our answer and it begins with a question . . .

Now, and you don’t have to answer us, but we’re  just curious . . . have you ever considered  . . . or  thought about . . . or asked yourself . . . what would you like to learn?

Okay, I’ll just shut up now and look at you – and yes, that’s expectation you see on my face! Because your question is our answer to what we can teach you.

And if you’re not quite sure yet . . . please, check back frequently because you might just get the answer to the questions you didn’t know you had.

*Several years ago Ray created a wonderful website, Discovery Questions– a free creative self-discovery tool based entirely upon questions. Make sure to check it out!