Hopelessness and helplessness are two of the worst human conditions if you ask me. They are closely related; siblings as it may seem. And they stand in direct opposition to a Growth Mindset. When hopelessness and helplessness reign there is no room for growth, only misery and despair. It’s hard sometimes to stay positive, to look for the opportunity and to not let yourself be discouraged. I get it. We’ve all been there. Probably more often than we care to admit.
But how to we turn things around again? How to we find the ray of hope and the chance to make a change? Though I like things like positive affirmations, they are usually not powerful enough to trigger a change of heart. What does though is asking yourself thought-provoking questions. Questions that pull you out of your status quo and shift your mind to a more optimistic outlook on life.
Questions are a form of self-reflection and the quality of your questions determines where you’re going emotionally and in life. Questions do not equal questions. It’s the nature of those questions that determines the outcome. We’re looking for Questions of Opportunity.
Questions of Misfortune
Before we take a look at Questions of Opportunity I want to spend some time looking at the contrary. Questions of Misfortune are the poison that you want to eliminate from your life completely, even though that’s quite hard sometimes. We are creatures of habit after all and years of QoM leave a mark. Don’t be discouraged though, because even if it’s challenging in the beginning, it will get easier with time.
QoM include all those questions and statements that belittle ourselves, strip us off our power and make us sink deeper into despair.
They may come from other people, but they are far worse when we think them true and we repeat them ourselves. If someone else says something like ‘Do you really think you can do that? Who do you think you are?’, you can react in different ways. If you’re confident in your skin and if you have a healthy Growth Mindset, you may think to yourself ‘Why shouldn’t it be me? Why would I mind such a toxic comment?’, but if you’re hurt and stuck in a Fixed Mindset you may think ‘They are so right. Who am I to do something like this? Aren’t I a nobody? Haven’t I failed before?’. In this latter example those toxic comments are internalized and therefore gain power. Do you think this person will act on their initial plan? Probably not…
A person stuck in a Fixed Mindset doesn’t ‘need’ another person to belittle themselves, they internalized these kinds of questions and torture themselves on their own. You may not even realize that you’re doing this as well. Those questions can be quiet and sneaky. They prevent you from moving forward, from giving your all and from learning valuable lessons.
I can’t do math, why do I even try?
Do you really think traveling would be a good idea?
Why is it always me?
You’ve failed in the past, why would it be any different this time?
One thing to notice here is that QoM usually have a rhetorical nature. They don’t require an answer, because the question itself is like a statement. Words have tremendous power and a belittling statement that’s put into a destructive question is probably the worst kind there is.
Questions of Opportunity
Now let’s look at Questions of Opportunity. Basically they shift your mindset from a stagnant and hopeless mindset to an empowering and optimistic outlook on life. While Questions of Misfortune focus on all things bad and wrong, Questions of Opportunity direct your focus on possible actions and learning lessons. Instead of having a pity party, you’re going to ask yourself questions that trigger you to move forward.
This is incredibly important, because you will train yourself to see possibilities and you’ll be more aware of your own inner critic that wants to keep you stuck. QoO are always empowering and they typically require you to answer them.
What can I learn from this failure? How can I act different to ensure a better result next time?
What are the obstacles in my way and what are ways to neutralize them?
What do I need to do next?
All of those questions move you forward and make you realize your potential to grow. It’s quite normal to screw things up and to be overwhelmed or afraid of some actions and possibilities. What shouldn’t be normal is to back away from opportunity and to feel like you have no power over yourself and your life. You do.
Next I’m going to suggest different situations and examples of questions you can ask yourself from now on. Feel free to come up with your own empowering questions or adjust the ones that I’m listing here 🙂
In Case of Failure
What can I learn from this failure?
What was the reason for this failure and how can I ensure a better result next time?
Did I have all resources necessary to succeed? What was missing?
What can I do to set myself up for success next time?
What can I do to break a pattern of behavior that’s standing in my way?
What did I do right during this experience?
In Case of Uncertainty
What is within my power to do?
How can I prepare myself for the next step?
Am I scared and do I want to let myself be stopped by this feeling?
Can I ask someone for advice?
What can I do about this situation?
In Case of Action
What is the best next step towards my goal?
Is this activity contributing to my progress?
Who can I ask for support or advice?
What action scares me or what do I dread? (this is typically the one you should do)
What’s the best opportunity for me to grow and learn?
Would it matter by the end of my life if this failed?
In Case of Life
Does this matter to me and why?
Where do I want to go and how do I get there?
What would I do if I wasn’t scared?
How can I grow and improve?
What do I appreciate in my life?
In Case of Challenge
Something doesn’t work? What can I do about it?
How can I push through?
Is my current course of action the best way to proceed?
How can I make my life easier?
Am I taking good care of myself?
How can I do better?
This list is by no means complete, but it’s a starting point to get you inside the right mindset.
The whole journey is a process and you won’t be able to rid yourself off your old mindset over night. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip into old patterns. Gently remind yourself of better questions and work from there.
Do you have some inspiring and thought-provoking questions yourself? Share them in the comments below!
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