Today I’m going to talk a bit about the power of questions. Why
is this important? Because the questions we ask ourselves direct our thinking.
And the quality of our thinking determines the quality of our lives. We can't shut off our thinking, but in time, we can learn to direct our thoughts. I’ll
end this post with a couple of questions for your consideration. I hope that you
will set some time aside for them.
The mind is a funny thing and often it behaves strangely.
Most of our minds could use a little more discipline. We each have countless associations, anchors and triggers and if left to its own devices the mind can behave like a frenetic stubborn toddler. If we allow it, the mind will travel down paths that create and heighten the experience of anxiety, depression, and anger. But, if we discipline it, the mind can create experiences that uplift and energize us.
And just like we need to keep a good eye on a frenetic stubborn toddler, we need to pay attention to the shenanigans of the mind. When a toddler begins drawing just a few little doodles on the wall it may seem harmless and cute, but if you turn your back for too long, soon you may find a huge, messy, masterpiece that takes forever to clean up.
If we do not pay attention and learn to direct our thinking, we have little hope of making real change.
Real change only occurs when we get our thinking straight. When we do we can create 2 important things. 1) different emotions 2) different physiological (bodily)responses.
It is only by getting a handle on our ability to create different emotions and different physiological responses that we can begin to feel in charge of our lives. Is this easy? Hell no, if it was, we’d see less anxious, depressed, addicted, angry people in the world.
So, why is taking charge of our thinking so damn difficult sometimes?
The primitive mind is concerned with survival, maintaining the status quo and using as little resources as possible (it is lazy). In effect, we need to train the primitive mind to travel down paths that are consciously chosen.
One of the best ways to get our thinking straight is to begin asking ourselves different questions. When we ask ourselves a question, we are fundamentally priming the mind. A question sends the primitive mind on a behind the scenes fact-finding mission. In a heartbeat, the primitive mind scurries to the mental filing cabinet and begins sorting through vast files of data looking for more evidence of whatever happens to be at the front and centre of our present focus.
When you think, you are using language and imagery. These two little things can create a hailstorm of horrible, crappy disempowering emotional feelings and uncomfortable body sensations. These two little things can also create a windfall of bliss, certainty, and physical comfort.
Before we continue let me ask you this…. which statement sits better with you?
Either will do, I prefer to think of disciplining my imagination, it just feels a little lighter and the reality is that we learn best when we are having some fun. The truth is that when we are thinking we are engaging our imagination. When we look at a past, present or event future experience we are generating images in our mind’s eye and are using language. Visuals and words create our emotional experience and generate feelings in our body. Ever get a headache or stomach ache after letting yourself wallow in a past crappy memory? Ever feel fantastic after immersing yourself in a wonderful past memory?
Where does most of your thinking or imagining energy go? Is it spent on the past, the present or the future? We all have a preferred orientation, and spending a little bit of time in all of these places is perfectly fine, as long as it serves us. Fundamentally, we need to be asking if our focus is serving us.
Here are a few examples:
Past focus- “what were some of my biggest strengths as a kid, or a teen, or a young adult, or at middle age and can I find a way to use these strengths now?” How might this question generate good visuals and language? What helpful emotions and physiological responses will I create?
Present focus- “what If I use ALL my fingers and toes to come up with examples of how lucky or blessed, I am?” How might this question generate good visuals and language? What helpful emotions and physiological responses will I create?
Future focus- “which two enjoyable parts of my current life would I like to see continue on one year from now, or even further into the future?” How might this question generate good visuals and language? What helpful emotions and physiological responses will I create?
Remember, questions direct our thinking or our imagination. Questions prime the primitive mind to look for more references from our mental filing cabinet AND impact our state in the here and now. Even when we ask good future focused questions, we are in effect creating memories that become filed away. The primitive mind is too literal and lazy to notice or care whether a future memory is real or not, just make certain that the future memory is realistic or you may set yourself up for pain.
Questions prime and generate possibilities, this is important.
A few questions for your consideration:
1. If asked to describe an experience does your mind automatically serve up:
-a description of a past event
-a description of a current event
-a description of an anticipated future event
Does the experience automatically generate?
-uncomfortable emotions and physical feelings
-comfortable emotions and physical feelings
It is important for us to know how our minds work and to ask ourselves if how we think or imagine is serving us.
P.S. play with the idea of creating good questions for at least a week. Becoming the CEO of our lives means we must be willing to experiment.
Terri Lee Cooper MSc. RSW