The Power of Questions in Life Coaching and in Everyday Life
Below is an excerpt from my #1 bestselling book Making Meaning: Counseling Psychology & Buddhist Practices to Create & Live the Life You Want, which you can get buy here https://www.amazon.com/Making-Meaning-Counseling-Psychology-Practices/dp/B09HFXS491 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.
In a sense, this is a good summary of the theoretical approach I use when I help clients create long-lasting positive changes in their lives and careers.
Let's start with an action. Nothing to fear, just a simple, quick task. Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” You could spend years, your whole life, pondering what you really want—and most of us do—but many times, people never actually form it as a question.
If you could have it all, what do you really want? What would your perfect day look like?
In order to answer this question, you will need to have something to write with and a piece of paper or a journal, and you will want to find a quiet place to sit for a few moments.
When you are ready, take a moment and close your eyes. Once your eyes are closed, repeat the question—“What do I really want?”—and “listen” for an answer. If nothing comes up, simply pay attention to your breathing, feel the temperature in the room, notice what’s happening in your body. If and when an answer does float to the surface of your mind, pay attention to it, and try to do so without judgement.
When you’re ready (or when you feel like you’ve done this exercise long enough) and you have an answer in mind, open your eyes. Write down any thoughts that came up.
The poet Allen Ginsburg described this process of spontaneous, authentic writing as: First thought, best thought.
If you decided to skip the exercise for now, congratulations, this book is for you. If you did the exercise, congratulations, this book is for you, as well.
Now ask yourself (and you don’t need to write anything): What shaped your decision whether or not to do the exercise?
To paraphrase Albert Einstein, “All knowledge is experience, everything else is just information”. If people could change themselves and their lives merely by engaging in a brief meditative exercise or by memorizing some theory, everyone would be very rich, happy, and surrounded with love and care. There are many people who claim they can provide you with such magic bullets and formulas for personal success, and in light of an overabundance of material on how to create the life you want, there are time-tested resources available to help you bring productivity and happiness into your life, with the help of basic-yet-effective transformational information.
However, despite the availability of such tools, people often still do not take action—even when they know what they have to do to reach their goals. I’m definitely guilty. When I first started reading self-help books, I became hooked; I went through about a hundred books within half a year, not even finishing each one, rushing to the next. I learned a lot, but during that half year, my life didn’t change even a bit. This gap between knowledge and action is probably the biggest mystery of them all in the field of mental and physical health.
Why don’t people just do what will make their lives better, even if they know it works? Why do many self-sabotage, and choose daily not to go to the gym (even if they have a membership), or why do they neglect spending time outside (the term Nature Deficit Disorder comes to mind) or eating healthy food that will completely transform their physical or mental health? Why do people continue to smoke, even though the American Cancer Society reports that smokers have an average life expectancy that’s ten years shorter than non-smokers? Why do people fail to budget, even when they are taught how? We probably all know that money is one of the most basic and obvious things we have to deal with in life; to be successful on a budget means simply spending less than what you earn. And yet, there is a big chance that you, dear Reader, are in debt right now. Again, not preaching—since I’ve been in debt throughout a substantial part of my life, there is no judgement here, only curiosity.
This is where Eastern and Western philosophies, the sciences—once called “natural philosophy”—such as biology, neurology, and psychology, as well as relational change practices, such as psychotherapy and coaching, come in. Change is proven to happen in a relationship, which is why counseling and coaching succeed; informational books are a great first step but not enough. There is a reason why Olympic athletes, who are pretty damn good at what they do, have coaches.
I know what you might be thinking: I just told you that it is not easy to take action when reading a book. This is why, when I am asking you to do something, it is almost always in the form of an invitation to ask yourself a question and then giving yourself a moment to fully experience an answer.
Usually, some form of internal message (sometimes a surprising one) will appear if you allow openness for a response to float to the surface.
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