Ask Useful Questions

If you want growth, you have to be able to ask useful questions. Useful questions take you from where you are to where you want to be. They are productive, creative, positive, and affirming. The answers provide information that you didn’t already have or combine data that was previously unrelated in ways that lead to new ways of thinking.

Not all questions are useful. Some questions lead back to what you already knew. That keeps you stuck. Some questions are designed to tire you out, make you feel stupid, or obscure information. These are also not useful.

In order to frame useful questions, you have to be mindful. Being present and mindful helps you to clearly see what information you are missing. It helps you to stay in an open state where you aren’t prejudging, taking things for granted, or making assumptions. It is when we are in this state that we can see things with fresh eyes. Mindfulness helps you to figure out the question that links where you are to where you want to be.

Don’t forget that being mindful also means that you are a good listener. Sometimes when people like to talk, they aren’t very good listeners. This can stand in the way of growth. Develop the ability to do both well.

A useful question almost never begins in why. Why tends to lead to a dead end. Why was I raped? Why did my house burn down? Why did my best friend die so young? Why am I stuck? Does knowing the answer to any of those things create peace? Do they bring understanding? Probably not. Asking questions beginning with how, what, when, where, which, can and who is likely to get you more useful information. It may not lead to the final destination, but it will probably take you further than why.

Asking useful questions require courage. Sometimes the useful questions may seem to be things that you “should” already know. Nobody wants to appear stupid, so they avoid asking simple questions. You may be amazed at the amount of information that you learned that is not particularly useful or that is just plain wrong. Ask the naive question. It could lead to a revelation.

Your questions are a reflection of your mental map. Since you are the one who formulates the boundaries of your mental map, your questions can expand your options by moving outside your comfort zone. If you google, “How do I make an omelet,” you will get instructions on how to make an omelet. If you ask, “What makes a good omelet” you will get a lot of conceptual ideas such as, why temperature makes a difference in how fast the egg sets, how using watery vs. not watery ingredients impacts the texture of the omelet, and how the size and material of the pan you are using impacts the overall outcome. All that information can not only help you to make a better omelet, it can help to make you a better cook because these ideas are expandable to food and cooking in general.

This might not matter so much if you are a making an omelet, but when you are creating your emotional map, relationship map, spiritual map, and map of the world through your thoughts, you questions matter a great deal. The universe only gives you the information that you are ready for. It knows that by the types of questions that you ask. By expanding your map, your growth increases exponentially.

When you are in counseling and in the world in general, stay mindful. Think about what is it that you want. Think about the bridge between where you are and what you want. Build a question that can take you there, then ask it. If it takes you in the wrong direction, start the process all over and ask another question. If it takes you only partway, incorporate the new information and then ask another question. If you do this long enough, you will become very good at asking useful questions and will be brimming with creative solutions to life’s problems.



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