If you are like most people, as you go through a normal day, you have conversations with yourself.  You ask yourself questions – perhaps hundreds of them each day – and you answer them.

But here’s the $64,000 question – where the rubber really meets the road:

What kinds of questions are you asking yourself?

If there is one thing in life that I’ve come to believe is absolutely true, it is this:

Our lives are shaped by the questions we ask – both of ourselves and of others.

Simply put, good questions lead to good outcomes and bad questions lead to bad outcomes.

Let me give you an example.  About 12 years ago, I had a serious medical situation.  I had been out enjoying some pizza with friends and returned home late one Saturday evening.  I was tired, so I went directly to bed.  About 1:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, I awoke with what felt like incredible heartburn.  I falsely assumed that is was indigestion from the pepperoni pizza I had enjoyed the previous evening, so I drank some baking soda and water, belched a few times, felt better, and went back to bed.  Over the next couple of hours, I awoke with the same discomfort and repeated the process.  The third time I woke up, the heartburn wasn’t going away.  Fortunately, my oldest daughter, a physician, was visiting for the weekend, so I woke her up.  She examined me and pronounced that I was having a heart attack and that we needed to get to the hospital immediately.

As we rode to the hospital, I could have asked myself several questions: Why is this happening to me?  What did I do to deserve this?  Why does this have to happen now?  The problem is that asking questions like these is totally unproductive and disempowering.  Ultimately, there are, indeed, better questions.

When you encounter a decidedly negative situation like this, one of the most effective and empowering questions you can ask yourself is, “What does this experience make possible?”  When we ask ourselves a question like this, we shift the focus from the past to the future – from what has happened (which we have no control over) to the benefits we can gain from this entire situation.  In my case, the benefits were losing nearly 50 pounds, getting in better shape, and ultimately having a lot more energy, creativity, and stamina.

The bottom line is this: you can’t always choose what happens to you.  Things do happen that are beyond our control.  What you can do is choose how you respond to those situations.  By asking higher quality questions, we produce far more positive and constructive results.  We make forward progress in life – and that ultimately is the goal.