“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
Questions focus the mind and inspire action.
Over the past month, I’ve written a lot about naming your purpose in life and changing your values and life story to fit that purpose. Specifically, I’ve discussed how having a strong purpose of living will help you increase happiness, improve self-confidence, and ultimately live a longer, healthier life. I also showed you how to align your core values, or singularities, with your purpose and how to wrap up your purpose and values into a new life story.
By defining your purpose, values, and story, you’ve created a clear direction for your life. You have aimed yourself directly at your goal. Most importantly, you have taken control of your internal influences and started to identify with your goal. However, finding your direction is only the first step. The next step is finding as many ways as possible to maintain your direction. Understand: achieving your goal requires constant aiming. You will only fulfill your purpose in life if you stay pointed towards it. This means you need to stay focused and motivated. Otherwise, your life will quickly get off track, or worse, lose steam altogether.
Questions Are Tools
Chester Santos calls himself the international man of memory. He was crowned the 2008 USA National Memory Champion and currently provides corporate training in the fields of memory improvement and mental fitness. In business and entrepreneurship, remembering people’s names is a critical part of networking and relationship building. But it can be difficult. Matching a large number of names to prominent faces in a large field gives a lot of professionals trouble. Santos says the fix is easy; he tells his clients to start asking questions. When you’re about to meet someone new, as he approaches, start asking yourself, “What’s his name?” over and over again even though you don’t have the answer yet. Then, right after you meet him, use another question to reinforce the name. For example: “So Dave, what brings you to this meeting?” In this way, you channel your mental energies and imprint that person’s name on your brain. In the same way, you can use questions to focus your mind and direct your energies towards your purpose in life.
Questions point you towards your purpose. Your brain must consider any question it is asked. It is absolutely impossible for you to ask yourself a question and not spend any mental energy answering it. For example, right now, ask yourself the following question three times: “What color is the elephant?” By doing this, your brain automatically starts to ask and answer a series of smaller sub-questions, such as “What is ‘color’?” and “What is an ‘elephant?’” Then it scrolls through your memory banks, asking, “What are all the colors I know?” and “What does an elephant look like?” Your brain will consider your current surroundings and ask, “What elephant?” and “Am I near an elephant?” It will even ponder theoretical and self-reflective questions like, “Why am I asking myself this question?” and “What will I learn by asking this question?” All of these questions are asked and answered in seconds by your conscious and subconscious minds. Simply asking one question triggers a cascade of questions that act to engage and direct your mind. The key is that you can use this process at any time to improve your focus and influence motivation.
Asking yourself the right questions will help you stay focused and inspired. In a previous post, I discussed how the question, “How can I escape?” motivated Stanislavsky Lech to risk his life and breakout of the Nazis death camp in Krakow. In another post, I showed you how Alexander Selkirk was able to survive after being shipwrecked on a deserted island by changing the questions he was asking himself from “Why me?” and “What do I need?,” to “What do I have, right here and right now?” Finally, in the post I wrote on setting singularities, I explained how asking, “How can I add value?” instead of “How can I get ahead?” helped me change the direction of my life.
Questions Are Obsessions
Looking back, I realize that every big goal I ever achieved, or came close to achieving, was really just a question I kept asking myself. Starting my sophomore year of high school, I asked myself, “How can I be a wrestling State champion?” over and over again until I finally placed at the State tournament. I asked, “How can I be a valedictorian” every day of every semester until getting anything less than an “A” in a class wasn’t an option. During my last year of Graduate school, I started asking myself, “How can I get out of here as soon as possible with my Ph.D.?” until finally I was allowed to graduate. These questions kept me focused on my goals and motivated me to take action to achieve them every single day. If you ask yourself a difficult question enough times, finding a way to answer it will become an obsession.
Questions have the power to instantly shift your focus and fill you with energy and inspiration. The first thing you need to do is identify the questions you are currently asking yourself. Which questions consume you on a daily basis? Are they productive? If not, change your questions. You have total control of the questions you are asking yourself, which means you can give yourself a more positive and productive perspective at any time. Use questions to stay focused on your new purpose in life. All throughout the day, ask yourself, “What is my purpose,” “What are my values?,” and “What is my story?” Avoid distractions by asking questions like, “What is the most important thing I can do right now?” and “Will this matter a year from now?” Increase happiness and influence motivation by asking questions like, “What’s great about this situation right now?” Use quality questions to keep you pointed in the direction of your biggest dreams. In my next post, I will show you how to stay focused and motivated by creating an empowering slogan for your life.