To ask the ‘right’ question is far more important than to receive the answer. The solution of a problem lies in the understanding of the problem; the answer is not outside the problem, it is in the problem. – J. Krishnamurti
Sometimes, when we’re stuck, it can seem like there is no way out.
The big trap of modern life is this: when you’re young you can do anything but know nothing. As you get older you know more but can do less because of your commitments and responsibilities.
So, how can you reconcile these differences?
Probably by trying to think differently.
All change, after all, must first start in your mind.
And the way to get your mind to help is by asking questions.
For example, how can you discover what you really want out of life? What is it you were born to do?
Well, you can look at your life now, look back on the decisions and choices that led you here and draw a conclusion.
Perhaps you chose to live in a particular city because you had friends there. Maybe you started a job as a temp and now you’re in a decent position after ten years.
Looking back, however, only tells you what you did. For many of us, that is not the same as what we wanted to do.
But, over time, we’ve forgotten what that was.
To discover that again, one way is to ask yourself what your perfect day looks like.
What would a perfect day be like for you?
Where would you wake up? Who would be with you? What would be the first thing you did? What would you have for breakfast? Where would you go? How would you spend each moment of your day?
If you write out in detail exactly what your perfect day looks like – work through it as if you could do anything, have anything you wanted and live like anyone – you’ll end up with a narrative of what your ideal future would be.
So now you have a vision that you can compare to your current reality and see what kind of gap is there between your today and your tomorrow.
And asking that question and seeing that gap can help you ask more questions about how you can bridge that gap.
For example, if you aspire to be a successful writer but don’t spend a minute writing in your perfect day then you either need to start to write or think about how you really want to spend your time.
Many problems can be overwhelming if you try and approach them all at once.
Take marketing, for example.
If you work in a small business then you’re probably looking at the marketing options you have.
Digital is big. Everyone else is on social media, sending out updates to their huge mailing lists.
How can you compete with that?
What kind of question can you ask yourself that will help you figure out what to do?
The writer Tim Ferriss has one question that he says helps him answer many others:
What would this look like if it were easy?
All too often we do things because it feels like we should.
For example, if you decide to send out a customer newsletter the temptation is to pack it with all kinds of information.
You want to be helpful but you also want to show how much you know and think that will happen if you put lots in.
But, does that help your customer.
The French mathematician Blaise Pascal once apologised to a friend for writing a long letter because he didn’t have the time to write a short one.
The ideal message to anyone is one that is written just for them and tells them exactly what they need to know.
So, if you’re trying to maintain a relationship with your customer, what would that look like if it were easy?
Well, perhaps you wouldn’t use an email newsletter to try and maintain your relationship.
Instead, you’d make sure you kept them informed about the work you were doing for them.
Maybe that’s enough.
Or you’d make the time to talk and meet with them regularly.
Or maybe you’d spend the time to create very personalised messages.
You can probably think of many areas where you’d like to make improvements – from your sales process to operations – or your personal life.
What questions should you ask if you want to discover new ways of doing things?