Change the Questions You Ask Yourself – It Could Change Your Life
By Rob R Morris
I am hugely passionate about mindset. Mindset is what makes the difference in people’s outcome. Mindset determines whether we are successful or not, happy or depressed, rich or poor, and even healthy or unhealthy. There are many factors that play into mindset. The most important factor is the conversation you have with yourself on a daily basis.
I have written on the idea of self-talk in the past, so I won’t delve too deeply here. But, the general idea is that we talk to ourselves all day long, some 300-1000 words per minute. Those words, or those internal conversations, are what forge our mindset. Most noteworthy, you can’t have a positive mindset if you’re having a negative conversation with yourself all day long.
Most people grasp this concept, but the challenging part is changing that conversation in our heads. The biggest question is “how?” We must understand how the brain works in order to tackle this question. People are habitual creates; we find comfort in our routines. Habits developed by repeated patterns of behavior create our daily routines. Ever start a new job and find yourself feeling completely uncomfortable with the new position? Yet, over time, that same job seems to get easier. We become more comfortable with the new routine. Behaviorally, we create patterns which in turn create a routine that brings us a level of comfort.
Our thought patterns operate off this same premise. There’s a concept called the “Tetris effect” which basically states that our brain is changeable (neuroplasticity) based on what we are exposed to in our environment. Lawyers and tax auditors learn to scrutinize and look for problems in their work. In return, they have higher rates of depression despite having higher income earnings. Why? These individuals see the world through a lens designed to look for problems. Consequently, they look for problems everywhere. There is no on and off switch where they can toggle back and forth between work and personal life.
This example shows how our habitual thought patterns keep us in state. If our habitual thoughts and self-talk are negative, we will remain in a negative state. As a result, this becomes our lens for viewing the world in all aspects; again, there is no on and off switch to toggle back and forth between different aspects of our lives. And in a self-perpetuating way, the more we look for negativity, the more we see it.
One of the most profound ways to change this habitual thought pattern is to change the questions you ask yourself. The questions you ask yourself create the conversation you hear internally. For instance, you may ask, “Why does this keep happening to me?” Asking a question constructed in that manner limits our ability to answer that question with only negative responses. Consequently, there is no way to answer that question with a positive response. The answers we force ourselves into are; “I’m not smart” – “I deserve it” – “I’m not good enough” – “I’m a bad person.” That conversation becomes self-convincing over time and so, that’s how our life plays out. Our mind creates neural pathways of a negative self-image based on this ongoing internal conversation; thus, the “Tetris effect.”
A real world example of this comes to us in the form of relationships. When we have a relationship fail, we divorce or break-up, we start asking those negatively constructed questions; “Why does this keep happening to me” or “Why doesn’t he/she love me?” Hence, there is no way to answer that in a positive way. We convince ourselves we are not good enough, attractive enough, or worthy enough of a good relationship. That becomes our self-image and we must see how it greatly impacts who we chose as our next partner; thus, the cycle continues. Furthermore, this is a huge contributing factor as to why we feel bouts of depression after a failed relationship. We ask ourselves questions that solicit depressing responses, therefore we feel depressed about ourselves.
We can learn to change the questions we ask ourselves. As a result, this will set us up to change the responses to those questions. If we can construct those questions in a positive way, we can solicit a positive response. Positive responses create new neural pathways in the brain. In other words, by simply changing our self-questions, we can change our mindset.
Going back to the failed relationship example, because it’s a topic most everyone can identify with, we can see how to apply these differently constructed questions. Ask a question like, “What did I learn about myself in this relationship that I need to change to make my next relationship successful?” We now set ourselves up to do some self-analysis in a constructive way. We all know we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. A question formed in this manner helps us identify those mistakes. We answer, “I need to learn to communicate better” or “I need to learn to control my anger.” Even the worst case scenario can be answered in a constructive way; “I need to learn to control my impulses and not sleep with the neighbor.”
Questions constructed in this way push us to do self-analysis and come up with ways to make self-improvement. When we have constructive answers we create a clear path and direction. Additionally, this prevents negative self-talk which becomes depressing and self-fulfilling. These types of re-constructed questions can apply to any aspect of our lives; business, personal growth, relationships, financial, etc.
Try using the following pre-fixes to self-questions:
“What would I have to do in order to…?”
“Describe what type of person I have to be in order to…?”
“They said it can’t be done, what would I have to do to accomplish…?”
“How would my life look in order to do…?”
“What would I have to do in order to feel…?”
“What did I learn about myself that I need to change for…?”
In addition, questions designed correctly can push your boundaries into unbelievable growth. Try using the following:
“What do I want in a partner and who would I have to be to attract that person?”
“What do I consider a successful person and what would I have to change to be that person?”
When you answer these questions, you will likely create a to do list. That’s your roadmap to success.
Questions constructed in this manner will promote self-reflection, growth, improvement, gains, and furtherance. Most of all, they don’t allow for negative responses that cause self-doubt or self-worth issues. Therefore, they don’t perpetuate negativity.
Especially relevant, the world we operate in thrives on negativity and the misfortune of others. We have to fight against that notion and re-wire our brains to promote growth and happiness through a positive mindset. Start asking yourself more productive questions, and watch your productivity soar.
Finally, your mindset controls your life.
Therefore, change your mindset – change your outcome.