Change Your Questions, Change Your Life

"Question Thinking is a system of tools for transforming thinking, action, and results through skillful question asking – questions we ask ourselves and well as those we ask others."

- Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, page 26

We’ve all been judgemental before. And as a risk averse accountant I am willing to even bet you’ll judge again. For some of you reading this you will be immediately offended (who does she think she is?!) Some of you will become curious (ok, tell me more!) Passing judgement is part of our human nature, no matter how good we become at practising the importance of curiosity or Question Thinking, it will still happen. Do you know what you are going to do when it does? How are you going to recognize it when you’re there? In Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, Marilee Adams demonstrates how questions have the ability to impact the outcomes of any circumstance we are in. If you’ve even scratched the surface of emotional intelligence you may be familiar with the concept of “hijacking.” This book will give you the tools you need to identify getting hijacked and not only how to get yourself out of it, but move towards a place of action and resolve. This book can venture into the area with all the feels, which is great for those that are more suited to that. For some of us on the more analytical spectrum I still believe that stopping to ask questions, instead of answers, has the opportunity to provide great opportunities and insights in our relationships both professionally and personally.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

How else can I be thinking about this?

"Change your questions, change your results."
- Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, page 61

The questions or moments from this book that will resonate with you the most I believe will vary significantly by the reader. The question “how else can I be thinking about this” stuck with me every time I came across it. Likely due to the fact that I have some decisions ahead of me to make both professionally and personally, I feel like asking this question is moving me towards a space of discovering what I need for the next course of action instead of trying to nail down the right answer or solution. This is what the author suggests as a switching question. When you are down a path of strong and narrowed assumptions, you can ask yourself some key questions to unstick you from that mindset. There can even be physical benefits brought on by changing our questions — tension being one of the most common. Think of current problem you have — now ask yourself, “How else can I be thinking about this?” The Insights I’ve outlined below provide some additional focus on how to actionize this in your day to day.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

There’s a choice

"Things happen to us all the time. You don’t have much choice about that. But where we do have choice is in what we do with what happens."
- Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, page 41

In order to get to a place where we can start asking the right questions to ourselves and to others we need to understand that there is always a choice to make. At the start of this summary I touched on being judgemental and that it is in our human nature. We can’t avoid it, but we can accept it, acknowledge it and make a choice about it. The author outlines two paths, or mindsets: Learner and Judger. You can likely guess from just the names the path or mindset that allows us to be at our best. Everyone has both so don’t be worried trying to think if you are one or the other. Accept it, and then make a choice. Every time you venture down a path you are choosing. We are often so unaware of the constant choice we are making to either seek with curiosity and discovery or make our way down to the judger pit. There you will find blame and resentment as your companions. To understand or catch yourself on these paths or crossroads takes practice in self-awareness. The book provides some key questions to help get you there called ABCC:

Aware – Am I a Judger?
Breathe – Do I need to take a step back, pause, and look at this situation more objectively?
Curiosity – Do I have all the facts? What’s happening here?
Choose – What’s my choice?

Next time you catch yourself in a problem or tense situation, stop and ask yourself the above questions.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Here’s the list. Write it Down.

"Ask them of yourself – What do I want? Ask them of other people - What do you want? Or ask them of those with whom you have an ongoing relationship – What do we want?"
- Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, page 184

Start asking yourself some questions. If you’re feeling good and comfortable with that I encourage to starting asking questions to those around you. Go back to the problem or situation from above, choose your path, and start asking away!

Here are the top 12 questions:

  1. What do I want?
  2. What are my choices?
  3. What assumptions am I making?
  4. What I am responsible for?
  5. How else can I think about this?
  6. What is the other person thinking, feeling, wanting?
  7. What am I missing or avoiding?
  8. What can I learn?
  9. What action steps make the most sense?
  10. What questions should I be asking others?
  11. How can I turn this into a win-win?
  12. What’s possible?

This book will get you ready to do some real work on your current relationships through the power of Question Thinking. It is a simple and powerful way to get in a space that allows not only you, but others around you to be at their best. If you want go all in, as the title suggests, to transform your life is commendable. If you want to start off a bit smaller, I suggest using the above in your next tough situation or coming up with questions rather than answers that you can use with your staff or team at your next meeting.

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Alison Spitzer

ABOUT Alison Spitzer

Alison is a Planning and Budgeting Finance Manager in Healthcare. Her colleagues will describe her as "not your typical accountant." She is passionate about driving success and building highly effective teams...
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