“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” ~ Albert Einstein
“We hear only those questions for which we are in a position to find answers.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
“The questions which one asks oneself begin, at least, to illuminate the world, and become one’s key to the experience of others.” ~ James Baldwin
What if you had this wonderful dream where a genie came to you and said I’m bestowing upon you the power to use your questions as a tool. Whenever you are in a bad place the questions you ask will go to work for you in any way you want.
Now suppose you woke up and thought, “Huh, that was a bit weird”, and as you went about your day the dream slipped away as they often do. However, what you don’t realize is that though the dream may have disappeared, your new magic power remained.
Actually, this isn’t as far-fetched a story as it may seem. You do have the power to fashion your questions into a tool; unfortunately, most of us sleepwalk through this. We unconsciously utilize this power to get us further away from where we want to be without even realizing it.
Most people find themselves in an emotional hole and use their questions to fashion a shovel instead of a ladder.
So how can you use your questioning super power for good? By elevating your questions, you elevate your life.
The Hole of Despair
Imagine you are in an emotional hole of despair. Perhaps you’ve experienced a series of unfortunate events, such as a car accident, a job layoff, or a health crisis.
What feels most comfortable is to use shovel questions to keep digging, without realizing you are putting yourself deeper and deeper in the hole. These questions sound like this:
Why doesn’t anything work out the way I want it to?
What else can go wrong?
These questions feed the pain of the situation with your focus and energy. You can almost feel them look down as they direct your attention to the bottom of the pit.
Ladder questions shift your focus to a higher vibration. They sound like this:
I wonder what good would come of this?
What will my new adventure be like?
Now that I have this opening, what would be the most fun thing I could do right now?
These questions raise your vibration and elevate your focus. They are curiosity-based questions so if you realize you are asking yourself shovel questions shift into a place of wonder and curiosity and ask new questions from this vantage point.
The Hole of Blame
Imagine you are in an emotional hole of blame. You know the one where whatever is happening around you is the fault of someone else. Your boss is a jerk, your sister-in-law is irritating, your kids are driving you nuts, and don’t even get me started about your mom.
Your shovel questions in this hole often focus on outward things, which keep you trapped.
They sound like this:
I’m right aren’t I? ___________ is wrong.
Can you believe she did that?
Wouldn’t you be mad if your boss told you to work late 3 times in a week?
They are very outwardly focused with the intention of blaming someone for some slight or wrong you feel has been heaped upon you.
Now ladder questions shift the focus inward, which is where all your personal power lies.
They sound like this:
I wonder why I feel triggered by her actions?
What lesson could he be teaching me right now?
What does this feeling signal that is missing from my life at this moment?
Again, curiosity leads you out of this hole and into a place of creative power.
The Hole of Confusion
Imagine you are in an emotional hole of confusion. Life seems to be spinning but not going anywhere. You feel frazzled and exhausted. You know you need to make a change but just don’t know where to go or what to do.
Your shovel questions sound like this:
What should I do?
Why can’t I make a decision?
Why does this have to be so hard?
These questions have a woe is me tone. They just serve to fortify the depth of confusion you are in.
On the other hand, ladder questions sound like this:
What is one small action I can take today to move me forward?
Am I really stuck or just afraid?
What’s the worst thing that could happen and can I live with that?
These questions inspire action, even if it’s just a baby step. They are inward focused on your power and ability instead of outward focused on confusion and overwhelm.
You will know the type of questions you are asking yourself by how they feel. When you catch your mental chatter or catch yourself speaking to someone using shovel questions pause and pivot into a ladder question. Don’t spend any time or energy beating yourself up for doing it wrong – that’s just another way to keep yourself dug in!
My best advice to you is, when you find yourself in an emotional hole, stop digging!!