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Asking Powerful Questions

Asking the right questions is often more important than the answers themselves.  Asking powerful questions opens the window of opportunity for someone to discover something new, and opens the door to deeper creativity.

Here are some of the things that asking a powerful question can do for us:

  • Stimulate creativity, new ideas, and break away from old patterns of thinking
  • Bring about greater awareness to underlying beliefs and values
  • Encourage our learning ability to enables us discover new things
  • Invite new possibilities and change into our lives
  • Motivate action to move forward

There’s a story about Albert Einstein who one day gave his students a final exam paper that was a year old. In fact, Einstein had given his students exactly the same final exam paper as the year before.

His assistant noticed the “error” and timidly made the famous physicist aware of his mistake. Einstein looked closer at the newly distributed exam sheet and answered: “You’re right, these are the same questions as last year – but the answers have changed.”

This funny example shows how science is constantly evolving, but similarly we are evolving too and will have different answers at different points in our lives as well.

If you’ve spent any time with kids, you’ll know that they go through a phase of curiosity where they’re endlessly asking “why” and “what if” questions.

This is a time when they go through a tremendous amount of exploration and learning.  This learning simply wouldn’t be efficiently possible in any other way.

Fundamentally, it seems questions are a highly efficient way to discover and learn.  Just looking at facts and answers seems to stop our natural path of inquiry and it shuts down our creative capacity to think for ourselves.

As children mature, their motivation to ask questions eventually slows down and naturally fewer and fewer questions are asked.  Why does that happen?

In our culture, there seems to be an emphasis towards fixing problems and having the right answers, rather than gaining insight and breakthrough thinking.

Going back to the world of science, great discoveries are made through powerful questions.  James Watson and Francis Crick asked, “What might DNA look like in a 3D form?”  This led to the discovery of the double helix structure.

Einstein used to practice “thought experiments” which were kind of questions he used to ask which led to many new discoveries in the field of physics.  Einstein’s theory of relativity came as a result of his curiosity in asking the question, “What would the universe look like if I were to riding on the end of a light beam at the speed of light?”

In business, Steve Jobs asked powerful questions not only to invent Apple products but also for his personal life.  Asking himself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” If the answer is ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

This may sound like a cynical way of living, but it can actually be very motivating to hope that you make every day better.

Sparking Your Innate Curiosity

In a way, you could think of questions as an expression of our curiosity, and it’s our natural ability to solve problems.

When we are listening deeply and attentively and have a genuine interest in what the client has to say, we’ll find ourselves becoming more curious.

Not only does curiosity add depth and wisdom to our conversations, but also helps spark the client’s own curiosity which can then open new paths and possibilities too.

Our curiosity might help the client “connect the dots” in their life and here are some of the things we might listen out for in a conversation:

  • A life-changing event or situation that the client might mention
  • The clients’ emotions in response to a situation in their life
  • What the client thinks about themselves, or others
  • Anything else which sparks curiosity and needs further investigation

It’s in our curiosity where, together with the client, we can really explore new territory and it’s where transformation can happen.

When we’re curious about something the client has said, it can lead the direction of the dialogue, as it may call for further discovery.

Powerful questions are one of the secrets to new experiences, exploration and learning. Answers stop our path of inquiry by closing down our creative capacity to think for ourselves.

What questions are you going to ask yourself?

About Aneesh

Aneesh is a writer, web developer and life explorer.

He writes about topics such as personal growth, the art of coaching, business, productivity.

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