If I’m So Smart, Why Can’t I…?Your brain can find new solutions when you learn how to ask it better questions
As an intelligent, capable woman and mother, have you ever been confused when you can’t figure something out or do something you assumed you could? Maybe it’s the inability to lose weight or make your child behave better or even figure out how to put together the Ikea bookcase.
Have you ever had many failed attempts at something you thought you could succeed at and wind up asking “If I’m so smart, why can’t I…?” It seems like a legitimate question to ask.
However, the issue is that your brain will always seek to find the answer to questions you ask and more often than not, you are asking it dead end questions. These types of questions do nothing for you and actually sabotage any effort to find solutions.
Remember that your brain also likes to take the easy way out and expend as little energy as possible. If you’ve been asking it similar dead end questions on a daily basis, your lazy brain will just keep giving you the same answers on a loop.
The key to solving any issue you are having is awareness, especially when the issue involves what your brain has been secretly doing. Becoming aware of the questions you ask, how you phrase those questions and looking at the default answers you’ve been getting, is how you can start making some big changes in your life.
The good news is that thanks to neuroplasticity, your brain has the ability to physically change to encourage creative thinking and new knowledge. Your brain can find new solutions when you learn how to ask it better questions.
This week I’m going to discuss the problem with dead end questions and how to ask better questions so you can get better results.
The problem with dead end questions
We live in the age of Google and Siri where answers are easy to get. You can look up virtually anything and have the answer almost instantaneously. But in order to get the answer you really want, you need to know how to ask the right question.
You have one of the most powerful search engines on the planet at your disposal. The human brain has the unique ability to think about what it thinks about, to give answers to questions and to plan for the future. No other brain has this capability.
The questions that you ask yourself are most often the most powerful tools you could have in life. But like most people you probably think everything in your life is just happening to you, as if you don’t have much control over what you think, feel, do or the results you have gotten.
You may not realize how many dead end questions you’ve been asking yourself on a daily basis. A dead end question is a question that doesn’t serve you like:
- Why is this happening to me?
- Why is this taking so long?
- Why did he do that?
- Why can’t they just do what I ask?
- When is this going to get better?
The human brain does not like unanswered questions. It thinks they are dangerous because uncertainty equates to a threat. It doesn’t want to think there’s anything out there that it doesn’t know about that could pose a threat.
Since your brain doesn’t like the unknown, it will obsess until it knows it’s safe. When you ask yourself a negative, dead end question your brain will look for the answer and fixate on all the proof it can give you to support its answer.
For example, by asking yourself a question like “If I’m so smart why can’t I lose weight” (which is also the title of a great book by life coach, Brooke Castillo), your brain is going to look for all the answers that prove you can’t lose weight. Your problem isn’t that you can’t figure out how to lose weight, it’s that you keep having thoughts that prove why your weight is a problem.
The brain doesn’t judge the questions you ask or the answers it gives you, just like Google doesn’t care what question you write in the search bar. Your brain takes the way you phrased your question at face value and looks for the answer and the evidence.
But what if you aren’t sure what dead end questions you may be asking? The key is when you notice you are feeling anxious, guilty, hopeless or self-pity, it’s a good time to check in and see what questions may be swimming around in your brain. Your feelings can be the best place to start to uncover dead end questions because your unconscious thoughts have been creating those feelings.
The power in uncovering the dead end questions you’ve been asking is that you can then change the questions on purpose. You can ask your brain more powerful questions that will give you the answers and the results you really want.
Ask better questions
Thankfully we live in a time in history where science is able to debunk old beliefs about how your brain works. The study of neuroplasticity has proven that your brain isn’t hard-wired like an electrical appliance. The new questions you ask can be a catalyst for your brain to change and discover new insights.
Since your brain is a pattern-recognizing machine it makes change challenging. It likes homeostasis or sameness therefore it’s totally onboard with the same dead end questions you’ve been asking. So if you want better results, you are going to have to become aware of those dead questions.
So what questions have you been asking yourself on a regular basis? Are those questions empowering or are they dead end questions?
Any time you shine a light on the thoughts that have been running your life, it can be a bit shocking. Those unconscious thoughts have been creating every experience you’ve been having and they are often so ingrained that they just come naturally.
For example, when I was going through my divorce years ago, I was so overwhelmed with all the changes happening to my life. My daily question was “How am I supposed to do this all? It’s too much!” As I kept innocently asking questions like that to myself, my brain went to work searching for the answer.
The answer it gave me was “This is too much. You can’t do it all”. Every time I had that thought I felt defeated and overwhelmed. I would then have no motivation to do anything and would often binge on TV to escape the feeling of defeat. My result was that, not only did I not do it all, I basically didn’t do anything. I was stuck in the negativity of my question and the thoughts my brain provided as the answer.
Once you have the awareness of the dead end questions you’ve been asking yourself and whether those questions have been serving you, you can begin retraining your brain by asking better questions. You can choose on purpose what you want your brain to work on.
With the awareness of how to manage my mind and how important it is to ask better questions, I decided to ask “What can I do in the next 10 minutes to help me?” My brain came up with great ideas like “I can fold one basket of laundry” or “I can go take a walk and listen to an uplifting audiobook”. I was shocked at how my brain automatically responded with something helpful even though a minute ago it was doom and gloom.
If you’ve ever tried to work with positive affirmations but found they just didn’t seem to give you what you wanted, I have a more powerful technique. In order to ask better questions you can take an affirmation that you like but don’t yet believe and turn it into an empowering question:
Affirmation you don’t yet believe – I am lucky
Question – Why am I so lucky?
Affirmation you don’t yet believe – I am successful
Question – Why am I so successful?
Affirmation you don’t yet believe – I am surrounded by love
Question – Why do my children love me so much?
In each example, the affirmation is something that you would like to think but may be too big of a “belief leap”. When working with the Manage Your Mind Model you need to find a thought that is believable as you work your way up the ladder towards the belief that you most want.
So if you don’t believe you are lucky, you’ve probably been practicing a dead end question like “Why am I so unlucky?” By taking the unbelievable affirmation “I am lucky” and asking your brain the better question “Why am I so lucky?” you give your brain the opportunity to show you all the ways you are lucky.
Another fun exercise you can use comes from the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. He suggests creating an advisory board of “Invisible Advisors” in your mind. Each “Invisible Advisor” would represent someone with knowledge or expertise that you are seeking. Whether this person is alive or dead, known personally or not, you can assemble the chosen few and ask them a question. Asking simply “What would you do in this situation?” can get you started in the right direction.
For example, when my children were young, I would visit my grandmother or talk to her on the phone on a regular basis. I would tell her all the wonderful things my children were doing and after I was done she would say (with a mischievous twinkle in her eye) “Ok, now tell me the bad stuff”. She always got such a kick out of the “tough” stuff and had such a great sense of humor about raising children.
A temper tantrum by my daughter wasn’t a big deal to her and made her laugh at the antics of a two year old. Once she had passed away I put her on the “Advisory Board” of my mind and would ask her “How can I see this situation the way you see it?” It worked every time! I imagined what she would say to me on the phone and I was able to borrow her sense of humor at the craziness of motherhood.
Whichever suggestion resonates with you, getting clear about the questions you are asking yourself every day is the important first step. Once you are clear, look at whether you like those questions. Are the questions serving you or not? Are they getting you the results you want?
With that awareness you can then decide what you’d like you brain to be working on instead. You have a free personal assistant ready, willing and able to work on anything you give it to work on. That’s pretty brilliant if you ask me!
- Becoming aware of the questions you ask, how you phrase those questions and looking at the default answers you’ve been getting, is how you can start making some big changes in your life.
- You have one of the most powerful search engines on the planet at your disposal.
- The questions that you ask yourself are most often the most powerful tools you could have in life.
- You can choose on purpose what you want your brain to work on.
- In order to ask better questions you can take an affirmation that you like but don’t yet believe and turn it into an empowering question.
- Simply asking an “Invisible Advisory” board, “What would you do in this situation?” can get you started in the right direction.
If you’d like some help with asking better questions in order to get better results, please feel free to schedule a free mini session or email me at email@example.com and we can get to work together.