If You Ask Better Questions, You'll Change Your Life

Questions tell our brain what to focus on, what to think about, and what to block out.

iuri melo
iuri melo

Greeting friends, grateful that you are here, spending a little time nurturing, feeding, and stretching your mind and perspective. As a therapist of 20 years, communication, language, words, and questions are my tools of the trade.

I've listened to 1000's of extraordinary people, who have been brave enough to share their story, their experience, their successes and failures. Words are so powerful and meaningful, especially the words we repetitively tell ourselves.

Like a spell, our words, phrases, and questions carry within them a prophetic influence on our identity and our mental health. It's obvious that I'm a fan of questions and the potential that they have to discover and create meaningful and long-term change.

Questions tell our brain what to focus on, what to think about, and what to block out. Think about that statement for a moment... the questions you ask, direct your focus, they tell your brain what to focus on, and what to block out, and remember that your feelings will often follow your focus.

The questions we ask ourselves can either move us toward liberation and revelation or toward imprisonment and distortion.

When anxious individuals and those afflicted by depressive thoughts and emotions walk into my office, I honestly feel excited. There is so much I want to tell them, so many things to discover about themselves that can immediately begin to transform and diminish the impact of those thoughts and feelings.

Depressed and anxious individuals have very oppressive thinking habits, as well as a dysfunctional relationship with their emotions. In addition, they ask themselves terrible questions. Questions that contribute to and maintain the anxious and depressive cycles they find themselves in.

They ask: "why does this only happen to me?" or "what if this or that happens, and usually those are fearful or catastrophic scenarios; or "Will this ever end, and what if it doesn't?" Here is one that I heard recently in my office, "If he's lying about this, what else is he going to lie about?" Remember that these questions are like commands to the brain.

In essence, we are telling the brain, "Brain, focus on this! Search this out; be on the lookout for when this happens again, and when it does, bring it to my attention. Project into the future and run all of the negative "what if..." scenarios to completion. Don't forget to think of all of the reasons why this is happening to me."

These questions will either exacerbate your current state of suffering and fear or launch you into one. Remember that when the brain focuses and visualizes intensely about the past or the future, the body is going to feel it. This is called the brain-body connection. Like a dream. In the dream, something is occurring in the brain, and the body is experiencing it.

Well, it doesn't just happen when you are asleep, it happens when you are fully awake, and focused. These negative questions create a negative trance or highly focused state. As the brain runs all of the negative scenarios, and answers all of the negative leaning questions, the brain releases chemicals, and the body experiences the effects.

In anxiety, there is an acceleration, as the brain and body become agitated and brace for certain impact (pain, fear, harm, betrayal, failure). In depression, the brain is playing a hopeless and helpless tale, a very real one at that. As chemicals are released, the body begins to sink into a state of resignation, pain, helplessness and hopelessness.

In an effort to protect itself and its host, the brain begins to create a barrier between ourselves and the scary, painful world. As a result the body feels numb. Not only does it block the intensity of the negativity, but it also blocks those things that at once brought you joy or pleasure.

There are deeper things at work here, but it's important for you to see how questions can get things started, and will surely maintain them. Revolutions start with questions. So which questions can you use that will incite an internal revolution to freedom and confidence?

What I'm attempting to present to you, is that you can begin to ask questions that get your brain focused in meaningful, proactive, and confidence building ways, that inspire hope, optimism, and action, instead of inaction and hopelessness.

For example, ask this question or a variation of it, to get your brain kick-started in an empowering and effective direction.

What can I do right now that would be helpful? It's simple and effective. Notice the message you are sending to the brain. "Hey brain, can you search for some options that can assist me?" If the brain is already drifting toward helplessness and hopelessness, you may have to persist, and ask again.

Write it down!

Begin small, anything that will get the engine turning, anything that will spark a little flame. Even if it doesn't, anything that falls within the meaningful, positive, building, or expanding range, is hopeful, and will ultimately yield a positive fruit. Sometimes we have to keep on living until we feel like living.

Many times anxiety and stress can build because we are neglecting things. Take some form of small, medium-sized, or large action that will address what needs to be done, or whatever you have procrastinated. If no resolution can be reached, start anew, and commit to doing something different from this moment forward, and begin it right then.

What does life expect from me at this very moment?

Viktor Frankl captured this idea in his life-changing book "Man's search for meaning." Viktor and others were prisoners in a German concentration camp and afflicted by the most extreme of circumstances.

Of those prisoners, he said: "It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual."

This is a challenging thought, especially when we feel victimized and unjustly dealt with, and yet, a great truth is manifest in these words. Each one of us is part of this great equation called life. Like variables, when our value changes, the outcome changes. Stretch your mind beyond where it is stuck. Peer just beyond that great wall that stands between where you are and where you want to be.

Don't be afraid to do what you don't feel like doing. Don't feel fake for trying! Your truth is not in inaction; it is in action. It is not in being stuck and feeling helpless; it is in creating and expanding. It is not in pity, but in courage.

There is a difference that begins to occur inside the mind and the body when we ask different questions. I want you to pay attention to your language, to your words, to your questions. Notice how your questions direct the brain to consider what can be done by you, instead of how helpless you are to the circumstances.

Try it out!

Next time you catch your brain veering toward a depressive or anxious cliff; it's probably because you are engaging your brain in a negative way, with negative questions. Stop that process, by asking these simple proactive questions, and then take action.

In a gist, ask better questions, get better answers.