by Andrew Weiler

October 20, 2015

There are many reasons why it is that some people become successful so readily whilst others struggle and never really achieve the levels of proficiency they were seeking. One reason which comes up time and time again is that the successful ones take on more responsibility for their learning and don’t just do what they are told. The ones that do soon realise that there are many issues they need to deal with along that journey to success. Questioning of practices, beliefs and ideas is a critical aspect to finding the answers that will point to ways to improve.

Taking increasing responsibility for what you do is unavoidable. So, not only is it necessary to ask questions but to reflect on the very nature of the questions you ask. Before we look at that it is important to establish that we in fact ask ourselves questions all the time. We don’t really reflect much on the questions much so that these questions form part of the inner talk that we all partake in. If you are questioning what I just said…that too is inner talk! 🙂 The following might help you to identify this kind of inner chatter, if you are doubting what I say.

As part of this inner talk, we add commentary about our ideas and actions as well as others’. This inner chatter is in fact virtually endless, stopping only when we sleep. Those of you who have tried meditation or tried to quiet themselves will be aware of this.  As part of this inner talk, we also ask questions, questions like –

  • How can I get to my friend’s house?
  • Should I take a bus or a train?
  • Should I have breakfast now or after I get to work?
  • How can I improve my relationship with ….?
  • Why is s/he so grumpy today?
  • and so on and so on

Most of the time we don’t even realise that we ask ourselves these questions; they are done usually without much self awareness, however if you take the time to look more closely at your internal talk, you will be surprised! 🙂

As you can imagine the quality of the questions we ask ourselves will determine the quality of the answers we get. The answers we get determine what we do and ultimately what we get for our efforts.

questions are the answerLet’s look at some concrete examples and you may then  be able to recognise what I am talking about as familiar .

Let’s  say you are struggling with mastering pronunciation –

You may ask yourself – “Why am I not able to master  this sound as well as others/as I like?”  If you do, you may get answers like – “I am not talented”, “I have no skills”, “I never was any good at pronunciation.” Questions like these tend to get you to places you don’t want to be. You may just end up reconfirming the poor beliefs you already had about yourself. That really is not what you want!

Consider changing that question to – “What could I do so I could master the pronunciation of this sound?” Here you end up having to look for answers rather than come up with why you can’t do it! Questions like these open up your mind to new pathways or even possibilities. Hence, the answers and the results you ultimately get will be VERY different.

The quality of the questions you ask yourself is a key factor in determining your levels of success.

There are in fact general guidelines we can set up for the questions we ask ourselves. There are the disempowering ones, typically starting with “Why”. Whilst why questions can encourage exploration of boundaries, new ideas and concepts outside of our self, they tend to do the opposite when the questions are about our self.

Why questions typically end up having us:

  • blame ourselves, circumstances or others ( not take on our share of responsibility)
  • provide excuses ( why we could not achieve, and hence avoid taking further action))
  • focus on the problems we face and do not want ( so we think more about the problems, not the solutions)
  • doubting ourselves (why I can’t do something tends to undermine our beliefs in ourselves)

Then there are the empowering questions that have us look for solutions and have us believe that yes, we can move forward and just maybe 🙂 we can do what we set ourselves. Typically these questions start with How.

or What

These kind of questions will bring your attention to looking for solutions. Also, by asking such questions your creativity gets called on as you need to focus on what you could to achieve your goal.  This will stimulate your brain and sensitivities to look for alternate solutions.

Another positive outcome is that you will end up being more action oriented as once you find some solutions, you will want to check out whether your ideas have any merit. Hence you will more likely end up doing, rather than thinking.

As you are now looking for outcomes and checking on the effectiveness of what you are doing, you will also tend to become more responsible for your actions as it is you who are seeking and providing solutions. This shift can help you in so many ways. As we know that it is the ones who take responsibility for what they do that tend to end up having the results they seek.

So if you are struggling with moving forward, have a closer look at the questions you are asking yourself. Maybe you have not been asking yourself the right sort of questions. So set out to ask yourselves better questions. Coming up with many questions is a good way to develop your questioning skills. Ask different types of questions about whatever you want to look at.

Once you have put in some time to forming questions about the range of issues you face, you may find it useful to consider this question,  ” What’s the most useful question I can ask to help me overcome such and such a problem or to develop such and such a skill?”.  A question like this can have you reflect in ways that you might not have entertained before.

Another set of questions you can ask, which may open up a new line of enquiry is to ask questions about the kinds of things that might be preventing you moving forward. Such as, “What is the best question I can ask myself to help me see what I cannot see at right now?”

There are many ways to move forward, asking better questions of ourselves is one way that may appeal to some of you, the readers. I encourage you to try it and see how you go! Let us know what happens! 🙂


About the author 

Andrew Weiler

Andrew is passionate about doing what is necessary to enable language learners to not only improve BUT to keep improving.

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