THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT possible ways
to talk to yourself. One way is to reassure yourself.
For example, before a party you might be feeling a little nervous
so you tell yourself, "It's going to be fine. It'll turn
Another way to talk to yourself is to give
yourself advice or instruction. For example, "At the
party, focus on drawing people out and getting them to talk about
Another possible way to talk to yourself
is to put yourself down. "I look like hell. I'm a
Or you could ask yourself a question.
On your way to the party, you could ask yourself, "What
can I do tonight that would make it genuinely fun?"
Of all the possible ways to talk to yourself,
asking yourself a question is the most powerful. Questions direct
your mind and set trains of thought into motion. That's what
makes them so powerful. Questions are generative. They generate
thought. And because they are so powerful it really makes a difference
to pay attention to the questions you ask yourself and to ask
yourself good questions.
Asking yourself a bad question before a
party, for instance, can create excessive anxiety and a negative
experience. For example, "What if I can't think of anything
to say? What if I embarrass myself? What if I'm a loser for the
rest of my life and I never get married and live alone and shunned
by the world?" The what-if questions are creating a chain
of anxious thoughts and images that produce feelings of anxiety.
With thoughts like these running through your mind, you arrive
at the party feeling nervous and withdrawn. You can't think of
anything pleasant to say (because your own anxious thoughts are
occupying your mind) and you embarrass yourself with your own
awkwardness. Keep this up and your dire predictions of a lonely
life could come true not because you are stupid or ugly
or have character flaw, but merely because you never paid attention
to the questions you asked yourself, and you never tried to ask
yourself high-quality questions.
What makes a good question? That's the
obvious next question, isn't it? What makes a question a good
question? The answer is simple. A high-quality question has
a good result. It focuses your attention on something that
makes you effective. It directs your mind to something that helps
you successfully handle the situation. A question is good if
it leads to a good result.
Bad question: What if they don't like me?
Good question: What is something I could do right now that would
make me more likable?
Bad question: What if I fail to accomplish
Good question: What's the most important thing I could do to
make sure I accomplish my goal?
A high-quality question is one that produces
an end-result you desire. Check in on the questions you ask yourself
(you'll have to pay attention because your thoughts are happening
automatically much of the time) and then ask this question: "What
is the result of asking myself that question?"
If the result isn't good, ask yourself,
"What result do I want?" And when you decide on a result,
ask yourself, "What question can I ponder that would help
me achieve that result?" Don't settle for the first thing
that pops into your head! Think about it. Make a list. Force
yourself to come up with ten good possible questions.
Then choose the best question the
one that will produce the best result and practice asking
yourself that question. Literally practice. Ask that question
many times. Get used to asking it. Make it familiar and comfortable
There are certain times when it would help
to ask yourself that question. Practice asking that question
at those times.
For example, when Katie is preparing for
an interview, she doesn't want to obsess about her automatic
questions, "What if they don't want me?" and "What
if I make a fool of myself in the interview?" She is fully
aware that those questions don't put her in the best frame of
mind to have a successful interview.
She decides that a good question to ponder
is, "How can I help these people?" That will put her
in just the right attitude for an interview. That's a question
that will produce a good result. So while she is getting dressed
for the interview, she asks herself that question. She ponders
it. When her mind wanders, she comes back to that question. And
in the car, on the way to the interview, she thinks about it
some more, trying to think of ways she can help her future employers.
Whenever her mind drifts to her worries, she asks herself, "Yes,
but how can I help these people?" And even walking into
the interview, she is wondering how she can help them.
What do you think would be the difference
between Katie sitting down for an interview wondering, "What
if they don't want me?" versus sitting down wondering, "How
can I help these people?" What kind of difference would
she have in attitude? In her demeanor? In her level of stress
hormones? In her focus outward focus versus inward focus?
I think you can see it would be a large and visibly obvious difference.
The second question would make her more effective in the interview.
The second question is more likely to lead to a good result.
Asking yourself a good question is a very
powerful tool. What great things do you think it can help you
achieve? Good question.
Ask yourself questions that
lead to good results.