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Better questions = better life

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Idea Journal Weekly 3

August 7 · Issue #255 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.


Summary: Better questions yield better answers. That’s true whether you’re trying to decide what to eat for dinner or how to live your best life. This issue offers a few ideas to help you increase the quality of your questions and get you closer to your ideal self.
(~4 min read)

#1. Ask the right question about your career and life
Author and coach Dave Perrotta writes in The Lifestyle Blueprint that from the time we’re young, everyone expects to answer this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
For Perrotta himself when he was a kid, he wanted to be a multiple-sport professional athlete. But as he puts it: “that dream died out when I couldn’t get off the bench for my high school JV basketball team!”
As you get older, you get asked the above question more frequently, but it changes slightly: “What do you want to do for a living?”
But what if this is the wrong question all along? 
Perrotta points out that we’re programmed to fit our lifestyles around our careers, when it should be the other way around. 
Instead of asking yourself, “What do I want to do for a living?” what if you asked: “What kind of lifestyle do I want to have, and what kind of work will help me get it?”
Then, you can work backward from your answer.
Perrotta tells the following story about his own life: 
“If you’re like most people, you haven’t put too much thought into designing your lifestyle… I can relate. I got a degree in accounting because it’s a stable career that pays well … I worked long and hard … But when I looked at the partners of the firm—the ‘bosses’ who were making the most money—I didn’t want their lifestyle. “
For Perotta, the key lesson is: “Even if you have a great job that pays well, you’re going to feel empty if it doesn’t align with your desired lifestyle.”
#2. Be your ideal self for a week
Entrepreneur Emil Anton and his team at Alux encourage you to ask yourself: 
What would your life look like if it were perfect?
Great job, happy life, a great body—and perhaps a wonderful relationship too.  
You likely already have a clear picture of how that person looks, sounds, and walks. 
But instead of feeling overwhelmed by your answers, why not just act like that for one week?
Have an exceptional week.
As the Alux team notes, this might sound silly but the real question should be: “What have you got to lose?”
Nothing. 
Would this perfect version of yourself work tirelessly toward your goal? Would this person spend less time worrying about the things they can’t control? 
Having this exceptional week will help you see the type of person you want to become. It would also push you to take steps to actually become this person. 
#3, Better questions equal better answers
In The Book of Beautiful Questions, author and “questionologist” Warren Berger recommends the following sex tips for building a better question:
1. Open it up
Rather than asking a closed question that yields only a “yes” or “no” answer, open it up by starting with words like What or How.
  • Instead of: Have things changed since last year?
  • Ask: How have things changed since last year?
2. Close it down
There are, however, times when you do want a more narrow answer to your question. This can help you identify a faulty assumption, and also save you from needless wondering.
  • Instead of: Why are we having this problem?
  • Ask: Is it a problem?
3. Sharpen it
Precise questions tend to result in better answers.
  • Instead of: How will current changes in the market affect us?
  • Ask: How will the rise of e-commerce in the market affect us?
4. Add Why
You often want to identify the root cause, or the “question behind the question.” To do this, add Why to the end of your original question.
  • Instead of: What trend are you most concerned about?
  • Ask: What trend are you most concerned about—and why?
5. Soften it
Questions can be confrontational. Putting a “softening phrase” at the beginning can indicate that the question is based on genuine interest, not criticism.
  • Instead of: Why are you doing it that way?
  • Ask: I’m curious to know: why are you taking that approach?
6. Neutralize it
Make sure your question doesn’t have an agenda, and simply lead someone to the answer you want. Leading questions might work for interrogators and prosecutors, but Berger suggests that you avoid them.
  • Instead of: Wasn’t that movie awful?
  • Ask: What did you think of that movie?
Quote of the week
“Our lives are living out answers to questions we don’t notice that we’re asking. Asking different questions helps us lead different lives.”
- Author and developmental coach Jennifer Garvey Berger in an interview on The Knowledge Project podcast
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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