What is thinking? The practice of thinking is just asking and answering questions – that’s where our thoughts come from. If you are saying to yourself right now “Well, I don’t think that’s true” – that just proves my point – you just asked and answered your own question.
Asking questions paves the way for action due to a phenomenon known as ‘instinctive elaboration’. Questions trigger a mental reflex in which we become focused on the answer and we cannot think of anything else. It is only when the question is resolved that we can begin to contemplate a different answer.
It is important to ask the correct question and this might take time, but it leads to results. Einstein once said that if he was given an hour to solve a problem, he would spend the first 55 minutes trying to find the correct question.
A study from the University of Washington demonstrated that asking citizens if they’re going to vote in elections makes them 25% more likely to do so.
In 2008, Québécois researchers found that asking people if they would give blood led to a 8.6% rise in donation, while a 2006 study published in Psychology Press found that when people are asked about diet and exercise, their overall well-being improves.
Questions are more important than solutions, because as W. Clement Stone explained, they take us out of victim-mode. Writing out a list of positive questions will change your thought pattern and make you proactive. In terms of goal realisation, a good question to ask might be “What can I do today that will get me closer to my goal?” or “How can I make this happen?”.
These questions trigger instinctive elaboration and will prime your attitude in order to achieve results. Questions that are tainted with negativity like “Why does this always happen to me?”, or “Why am I always broke?” are deterrents that will force you to give negative answers, leaving you a victim. Instead of saying “I can’t afford it”, ask “How can I afford it?”
Steve Jobs asked himself every morning if he was doing what he wanted to be doing, and if not, why not? A rebel entrepreneur has a similar ritual. They think about the right questions, which results in motivation and achieving results.