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Better Questions Get Better Results

By Philip Humbert

This week I've been re-reading Jack Canfield's wonderful book, The Success Principles, and I was struck by his focus on the questions we ask. Several of his principles center on asking more and better questions of ourselves and others.

In my thirty years of coaching, I've noticed that even highly successful people tend to ask very few questions, and not very good ones at that.

I can't speak for other coaches, but the people who hire me as a coach tend to be competent, confident and at least moderately successfu l. They've done alright in life, sometimes much better than "alright." They are smart enough to see the value of coaching. They tend to be goal-oriented, ambitious, hard-working and creative. They are "going someplace" and want to get their easier, faster and with higher levels of success.

But even they tend to be influenced by the Law of the Familiar. That's a polite way of saying we all tend to (1) do the same things over and over because we know how to do them and are comfortable with the familiar, and (2) we tend to fear the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable and the unknown. So we repeat the old definition of insanity: Doing the same things over and over while hoping for a different result.

Good questions get us out of that rut. Great questions open doors and move us forward quickly. Sometimes the right question makes the "impossible" easily possible! A great question can even turn a frustrating sit uation into an adventure, something that is exciting, that stretches us, helps us grow and makes life more fun!

Unfortunately, most of the time, most of us ask really dumb questions. We tend to ask questions like, Why does this always happen to me? Or how about the old favorite, Why can't I catch a break? Maybe one of your personal favorites is, How come things (my life, my work, my kids, etc.) never change?

Those questions are dead-ends! The human brain is remarkably creative and it will always (ALWAYS!) find answers to those questions! And, unfortunately, the answers it comes up with tend to keep us stuck exactly where we are.

Here are some better questions you might try:

  1. What are twenty nutty, off-the-wall things I could do to solve this?
  2. How have other people dealt with this problem and solved it?
  3. What if I did the opposite of what I've been trying?
  4. Who could help me with this?
  5. Could I find a book or website that would help me?
  6. How do my competitors handle this problem?
  7. If I had a million dollars and a team of experts, how would I deal with this? And, in light of that, where can I start today?
And here's a great question: Is it time to hire a coach or consultant to help me with this?

Finally, I want to ask some direct and deeply personal questions. If we were together face to face, I'd ask them quietly but as powerfully as I could:

  1. If we talk again three years from now, what will you have achieved in the past three years? What will you point to with pride three years from now?
  2. What has to happen for those achievements to become reality? What will you have to do? What skills will you have to master? What obstacles will you have to solve or over-come? Who will help you get there?
  3. What are your plans for making it happen? Can you show me your "road-map," your calendar and your budget for success?
These are the questions top performers ask themselves. You should ask them of yourself, as well.
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