We are always looking for answers. We want to find meaning—something that changes our life. We want to win the lottery or discover the next big stock to make it big on Wall Street. For many, we want to look for answers to fix our careers, relationships, and finances.
What if it isn’t about the answer? Think about that question. Even simple questions can spur you to think about many possibilities.
There are many ways to approach a problem. We often get caught up thinking about answers when what we should be doing is looking for the right question.
The Right Question
What is the right question? Most of our behavior comes from the questions in our minds. It may be a question that has been with us throughout our entire life, often referred to as a “primary question”. It may be a question that helped define our career path or the life we are living now.
By asking yourself the right questions, you stimulate your mind to think of the right answers. It helps move your mind and connect the dots on items you may normally miss. When you ask the right questions, it often helps you focus on the journey that leads to the right answers.
When you do find the answer, the realizations made inspire you to act. These realizations reveal assumptions that you’ve probably made throughout your life. The right questions create change, and it can be a lasting change that helps define your life from now on.
The Path to the Right Question
Before you can figure out the right question, you need to know what the wrong questions are and are not. Let’s look at a couple.
The Right Question Typically Does Not End With a “Yes” or “No”
Many problems come about due to the wrong kind of thinking. We typically cannot get out of a problem with the same frame of mind that got us into the problem. We often think there are only two solutions, two answers. This leads us to believe it is a matter of yes or no and stops our minds from finding a better answer. It’s hard to communicate and change when we perceive a black and white world. For many things in life, it isn’t about a right and wrong answer.
We live in an ever-evolving world. Cultural norms change, technology helps transform the way we live our lives, and new challenges arise all the time. If you want to move forward, you have to be curious and think that there is more than the answer in front of you. Many of us are afraid to ask questions because we fear that it’s a waste of time. Asking yourself a different question gives you a different perspective. It can lead to that eureka moment you’ve always wanted to achieve.
The Question Does Not Start With Why
A “why question” indicates something has already happened and that what has happened is bad. We ask ourselves:
- Why did this happen?
- Why am I doing this?
- Why is this happening to me?
When we ask why questions, it leads us to react defensively. We don’t want to be wrong. More often than not, we do not want to acknowledge the wrong thing in our life as a reality. The wrong question brings about the wrong attitude, which leads to the wrong answer.
The Right Question: How? or What?
We should ask questions that stimulate the mind and focus our thinking in a positive direction. We can get overwhelmed by emotions when we ask the wrong questions. Instead of asking, “Why is this happening?” Ask instead, “How can I change this?”
Instead of accepting our current reality, we think about making things better. Instead of accepting our state of life and getting depressed, we work our minds out of the situation. Another question you can ask is, “What good thing can happen today?” It helps reframe your mind to think positively. It also makes us more receptive to doing work that can produce positive results.
These questions are vital to leaders who have a strong influence. Leaders with a strong influence include self-leadership too. By asking the right questions, you can frame them to focus on the process (solution-oriented) instead of the problem. The right questions help by prompting us to figure out how to contribute to a solution. It helps you identify your root problem because you brought awareness to options and solutions.
In my book, The Smartest Person in the Room, I talk about how the brightest aren’t the best people for the job. In cybersecurity, workers often suffer from poor communication, which reflects on the company. Questions that promote insecurity and fear influence them in a negative manner.
In my method for fixing this issue, I talk about The Secure Methodology. The fourth step in that process is communication. For people in certain industries, communication and language become a barrier to growth. Instead of building bridges to connect, we settle with creating walls. It often all ties back to the wrong question. We talk in jargon to portray higher intelligence, which masks our insecurity.
The way to move forward is to nurture each other by communicating in a manner that is understood and asking the right questions. For instance:
Instead of asking, “Why is there a wall?” ask the question, “How can we remove the barrier?”
The right question creates an environment of inclusiveness and a willingness to work together. It conditions the mind to find a solution rather than dwell on the problem. It helps us listen by reframing our minds and simplifying the process.
Questions Are the Path to Better Leadership
Questions are a path to making things better for your life. Whether it is for your organization or the relationships around you, you can create change with the right questions. However, they are only one part of a larger equation. The Smartest Person In The Room covers various steps to help you move from fear to growth to contribution. You’ll find that even though the book leans towards the cybersecurity industry, the message works for everyone.