Change Your Question, Change Your Results



“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” — Ayn Rand

Here’s a little recipe that will help change your game.

We’re all creatures of habit and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.  How do you break out of a thought pattern or change how you see things?

Your thoughts play a key role in your daily effectiveness.  They shape your attitude, how you feel, and what you do.

The thoughts you think can help you be more resourceful in any situation.

3 Ways to Change Your Thoughts

Here’s a simple and effective way to change your thought patterns.  Here are the keys:

  1. Direct your attention
  2. Change your focus
  3. Change the question

In a nutshell, to direct your attention, you choose to change your focus.

To change your focus, you ask yourself a different question.  For example, asking yourself “Why isn’t this working?” is a very different question than asking, “What might work?”

Play Around with Different Questions

You can ask questions about you, other people, or the situation.  You can ask questions about your thinking, feeling, or doing, or about other people, their thinking, feeling, or doing.

You can shift focus from the past, to the present, or the future.

One of the best ways to break out of a rut in any situation is to ask, “How do we solve this?” or “Who else shares this problem?” or “Who can we model from?”  Simply by asking new questions, you shift your brain into a more resourceful mode.

Play around with different questions to see how quickly you can change your state.  For example, ask yourself what the favorite part of your day was, and this will direct your attention to the good stuff.

Stick with It

Keep in mind, that while you can quickly change your state or your thought process, creating new patterns that stick might take a little longer.

When you master something, you basically move from getting it intellectually, to having an emotional connection, to finally a physical mastery, where it’s baked in and automatic.

This actually maps to the three domains in Bloom’s Taxonomy for learning (Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor.)

Questions to Help You Get Started

Here are some questions to get you going:

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What are you optimizing for?
  • What’s the best you can do in this situation?
  • What are you making time for?
  • What’s good enough for now?
  • What’s your Pope-eye punch?

If you want better answers, ask better questions.

You Might Also Like

The Power of the Pause

3 Ways to Get Unstuck

3 Thinking Techniques to Improve Your Intellectual Horsepower


  1. I love that Ayn Rand quote! Questions are a powerful force, and they’ve been playing a bigger role in my life. I love to ‘ask a better question’ and feel the subsequent shift. Thanks for a great article.

  2. I see from reading this article how changing the question opens a world of possibility. What a shift it can make. Thanks for this idea. It’s a good one to play with and integrate more and more.

  3. This is brilliant. Your example, ‘asking yourself “Why isn’t this working?” is a very different question than asking, “What might work?”’ just shows that what seems like a simple change can cause our brains to work in a completely different way and throw up solutions we would never had access to before.
    Many thanks,

  4. @ Jean — It’s a classic quote and I like the tone!

    @ Positively Present — I can so imagine Ayn storming the castle!

    @ Sandra — The beauty is you get to practice whenever you want to tune or prune your attitude, thoughts, feelings or actions.

    @ Kate — Thank you. It one of those little tools that really can make a big difference in any situation. It can help you out of just about any jam or at least make you more resourceful.

    @ Norm — Thank you.

  5. Hi JD .. I’m always amazed at how people ask negative questions .. instead of, as you say, turning the question round to be a positive. There’s always another way of looking at things .. getting stuck in the rut doesn’t help anyone .. no improvement, dull, depressing, pulling one down .. look on the bright side of life – I say!

    Thanks – Hilary

    PS I too enjoy the Ayn Rand books .. from years ago ..

  6. @ Hilary — The beauty is that asking the right questions is simply a matter of skill and there are some great methods for it. One thing that helps me is I imagine a pie with multiple slices and I walk the different slices (perspectives) at a time. It’s my simplified version of the Six Thinking Hats.

  7. Hey JD, nice article on a very powerful subject. As soon as we ask a question, provided it contains an assumption, our mind starts looking for the answer. When presented as a fact our mind believes that the assumption is true. Done correctly, this will immediately redirect our focus toward new possibilities. For example, if we ask “what else can this mean?” the mind hears “this can mean something else, what is it?” Soon, we are presented with a list alternate possibilities.

  8. @ Jonathan — Thank you. I like your precision on connecting the question to the assumption — it’s the key to getting resouceful.

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