The Power Of Self-Transformation Is In the Questions We Ask
What do I truly want?
When was the last time you had these types of questions in your mind?
Usually when we are stuck in the wrong career, feeling lonely, a little lost, without much purpose in life–we tend to make other inquiries.
What the heck is wrong with me?!
I am going to share with you how my inquiry began and what led me to one of the most powerful discoveries in my life…
One day I woke up and it hit me – I had reached a low point in my life where I was always feeling distracted, disorganized, moody, and totally forgetful. I would leave my house with five things in my hand and I would lose my keys every day.
I didn’t know why, but I felt a deep sense of loneliness and disconnection with the world. I felt I lacked purpose and there was no support system around me to understand what I was experiencing.
I asked myself…
“What’s wrong with me!?” (Note: This question was very different than “What do I truly want?”)
I didn’t have an immediate answer to that question, so I did what most people do when they feel like there’s something wrong with themselves… I went to see a doctor:
“Andrea and her husband came in for an evaluation on 10/16, 10/25 & 10/30. She spoke of a history of distractibility, disorganization and forgetfulness at home and work. The purpose of the consultation was to determine if Andrea was ADD or not.”
…I was diagnosed with an attentional disorder, ADHD, on November 23, 2001.
When I got this news, it made me feel so different from everyone else. I would look at other people and assume they had it all together, while I did not.
The quick solution to one of the most common and talked about behavioral disorders in the U.S.?
The number of children and people diagnosed with ADHD scares me 8% of children in the United States, representing up to five million kids have been diagnosed with this disorder, and about 4.4% of adults in the U.S. almost 10 million people have it.
An article in the Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology that reveals the following information:
“Adults with ADHD have comorbidity rates of 16 to 31% for major depression, 24 to 35% for ODD, 17 to 25% for conduct disorders, 4 to 14% for obsessive-compulsive disorders, 35% for alcohol dependence or abuse, 24% for substance abuse,43% for generalized anxiety disorder, and 53% for overanxious disorder.”
This makes so much sense to why that diagnosis did not help but to isolate my concerns.
I coach many people with depression and anxiety that have been on drugs for years just to carry the day. I am not against conventional medicine, it’s important. But my own experience made me curious about what we neglect when we do not stop to inquire about the root of the problem.
The distraction, the depression, the disorganization got better with medicine, and it helped to have a tangible, medical explanation for some of my problems. But despite my outward improvement, inwardly I still felt there was something wrong with me. I felt isolated.
The thought of being alone was so scary that I would say “yes” to everything, making sure to keep myself busy all the time.
Unfortunately, no matter how busy I was, that burning question did not leave me alone.
“What is wrong with me!?”
Doubt, fear, and resistance took dominion over my thoughts. My inner conversation started to sound like this:
- I am over 30 years old…
Shouldn’t I know who I am?!
Shouldn’t I know what I want from life?!
I am not good enough!
I became frustrated and I couldn’t understand why the pills alone weren’t solving my problems.
What I know now that I didn’t know then, is that the western medicine wants quick fixes and practical solutions for what’s going on in our minds and bodies. But this just scratches the surface and the problem with that is, you don’t give yourself permission to discover the root of the issue, which resides in our emotions and in our subconscious. So the important question never comes.
The power of questions
It was not until I asked that question that hit the spot that my life began to change…
NOT…. “What is wrong with me!?”
BUT…. “What do I truly want? What am I here for?”
What is it about one question that shuts me down while the other question inspires creativity within me?
I wanted to do more research on the power of questions for my readers. I asked my intern for some assistance, and she introduced me to a powerful book called “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life” by Marilee G. Adams.
In Marilee’s book she identifies two paths in which our questions can take us:
1) The Choose Path: Which is the learner path
2) The React Path: Which is the judger path
At the beginning of the post I shared with you how I started my inquiry by asking a question that put me in a reaction mode.
What’s wrong with me?
I was choosing the judger path. The one that ends in a swamp. No matter how many times I asked, I could not get out of the roundabout because the intention behind the question was one of self-judgment. I wasn’t accepting myself as I was. I wanted to be different, better, so that I could feel worthwhile and if I was worthwhile, then I would have purpose in my life.
I made the decision to take some time off. I closed my business and took a sabbatical year to reset (think “Eat, Pray, Love”). I signed up for a retreat far away from home, near nature, and spent weeks with strangers and remarkable life coaches.
These coaches and leaders did not come with the same old questions – questions that make you doubt and think that something is wrong. Their questions had a different taste. They were more philosophical, they invited observation. Let’s not forget that psychology has its roots in philosophy. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that we shifted the focus of psychology to pure behavior, and rejected introspective inquiry and the study of consciousness when it came to issues of the mind.
I find that everything gets complicated when we try to separate things. In my case the focus was on my behavior. I did not stop to think why?
Today I tackle the concerns of my clients by helping them undergo an introspective journey that helps them discover their limitations and the many possibilities for expansion they hold within.
What happened in this introspective journey is the powerful questions stripped me down and I slowly began to remember what I truly wanted.
Sitting in the middle of the Redwoods I asked…
What do I truly want? What’s next?
This question shifted everything!
Because I finally chose the learner path!
This path gave me permission to learn and discover what I had forgotten: self-love, compassion and acceptance in the midst of my issues.
Here is where the magic is
The combination of feeling safe, accepted and quiet, gave me permission to get to the root of my issue and I stayed until I got my answer.
The feeling is night and day.
Having the courage to find the answers to the deepest questions, those all the way at the bottom of the barrel, in the darkness where no one usually looks, is empowering.
We are not used to not knowing. We are too quick to find answers and quick fixes.
In school, we learn that if we don’t know, we are behind or not smart enough. So most of the time we generalize or make hasty assumptions and give an answer just to give an answer. Then we consider it done. We are back in the driver’s seat and operating under the illusion of control, where it’s more comfortable to judge than to shift our perceptions.
My issue was not ADHD. That label created a superficial answer that allowed me to continue judging and limiting myself so that I’d have an excuse not to put myself out there in the world and live in the fullness of who I am, which can be risky but is always worth it!
I got better by learning to ask myself the right questions – the questions that took me deeper into a higher consciousness, allowing me to resolve my issues rather than avoid the momentary (yet sometimes necessary) pain of personal growth and expansion…. “growing pains.”
From that point on, learning to ask the “right questions” became an essential element of my coaching practice. I ask my clients for permission to be bold and ask the powerful questions because usually when I first start working with someone, their mind is racing so fast with chronic negative self-talk that it seems unstoppable and impossible to have any clarity. It’s hard for them to get to the powerful questions.
What’s in a powerful question?
So, how do you know if you’re asking the right question? Or if you’re asking the right way?
A powerful question is…
It cannot be answered with a yes or a no, and it usually begins with how or what?
What have I wanted to do and haven’t?
How does this fit with your values?
Leads to something larger
They don’t stop you dead on your tracks narrowing possibilities. On the contrary they invite exploration and new discoveries.
How can you double the learning in this experience?
They evoke personal transformation and take you on an inner journey with no right or wrong answer.
Those questions open the soul and strip the bullshit once and for all.
When you are living life so fast ,the questions never make it to the soul. They bounce back as seeds in a drought.
From personal experience, I know this is a tough space to be in, so I want to share the following tools with you that you can practice anytime you feel caught in the judger swamp.
3 Steps to Powerful Introspection
1) Slow down and relax
The first step to slowing down gives you permission to listen. Without slowing down it is very difficult to hear the wise voice that lives within us.
One of the most powerful ways to get clarity in life is to pause and journal. Set aside an hour this week without interruptions. Just you and a journal and begin to write one hundred questions that are important to you. Don’t stop correcting yourself, just write. Writing is a very powerful tool for self-discovery.
Your initial questions will be superficial. Stuff that’s on the surface. Then you will begin to notice certain themes, and as you get closer to the hundreds that’s where the juicy stuff lives.
2) Don’t rush the answer!
I always say the foreplay of life is in the questions we ask. Sadly, we have been wired to have an answer, to be too quick to respond, to get it right. So give yourself permission not to know, as Socrates said: “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing”.
Some people stay with a question for years. Be patient. The answer will come when you are ready to receive it. One last thing I will share with you. When I work with my clients I can touch the soil of their soul. If I notice drought, it takes a lot of loving patience from myself and the client to work the land of the psyche. So be patient. If you feel anxious and experience resistance, push through it. You are on the right path.
“But there is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question.” – Thomas Merton
3) Get Curious
Stop assuming why things are a certain way. Why you don’t have the job of your dreams or the perfect relationship or why you are not happier. In a world of judgement you will have the immediate answer for these questions, shrinking you or making you wrong. Instead get curious and ask: What am I unwilling to risk? What are my assumptions? Where do I limit myself?
Curiosity allows you to discover insights that are not always on the surface.
What Powerful Questions would you ask today?
This information is based on my own experience and research. It is not meant to replace the advice of medical professionals. Use this information based on your own judgement.
Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition)
“Philosophical Psychology.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. Ed. Bonnie Strickland. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 497-498. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.
“Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD).” Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology. Ed. Charles D. Spielberger. Vol. 1. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2004. 225-231. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.