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5 Questions That Will Change Your Life

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2. Is this thought empowering or disempowering me?

Many of us operate on autopilot, often relying on ingrained thinking patterns and self-talk to direct our day-to-day lives. The problem with that, of course, is that these patterns may not be serving us very well. The way we think about things might be sabotaging our happiness, effectiveness and sense of fulfillment, yet we persist in thinking the same thoughts because they are familiar and comfortable.

We can help snap ourselves out of ingrained thought patterns by first identifying them and then asking, “Is this thought empowering or disempowering me?” says Debbie Ford, author of The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions to Guide You to an Extraordinary Life (HarperOne, 2004).

For example, say you regularly experience “blame thoughts” when your spouse leaves old coffee grounds in the coffeemaker. When you isolate your thought (“It’s all his fault!”) and ponder Ford’s question, you will find that what you initially take for empowerment (“I’m right and he’s wrong!”) is, in fact, a disempowering, self-victimizing thought. The thought only isolates you further (“Me vs. Spouse”), deepens your resentment (“He is thoughtless and doesn’t care about me!”) and leaves you mired in frustration because you’re no closer to finding a real, workable solution.

If you can shift your thinking away from blame and instead focus on solutions (“What’s the best solution to the coffee-ground conundrum?”), you will feel — and be — infinitely more empowered. “We are always moving toward something or staying stuck where we are,” Ford explains. When we can identify how our thinking is keeping us stuck, we can adjust those thoughts.

3. How can I leverage this experience to become even better?

When faced with difficult circumstances, leadership expert Robin Sharma, author of The Leader Who Had No Title (Simon & Schuster, 2010), suggests thinking strategically. Sure, a situation may be tough, but there’s almost always a way of reworking a negative scenario so it can catapult you forward.

Take the current economic crisis: While the recession has had countless negative effects, it continues to hold opportunities for those entrepreneurs who are willing to think beyond the rhetoric of “times are hard, money’s tight, and nobody’s hiring.”

“Every challenging experience carries an opportunity to leverage it into an even better situation than before it occurred,” Sharma says. Even personal loss, he notes, brings our attention to resources we didn’t know we had. The secret is to focus on the opportunity, not obsess about the problem.

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2:32AM PDT on May 19, 2013

Thank you :)

12:18PM PDT on May 17, 2013

The questions all derive from thinking... nothing on sensing... therefore there's an imbalance from the outset...

4:44AM PDT on Apr 4, 2013

very interesting, thanks.
I liked the first question. Often we believe things that are just not true if we really think about them.

10:17PM PDT on Mar 25, 2013


3:16AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

The first three questions remind me of the Rotary International ethical standard...

12:32PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

7:00PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

Thanks for the great article

10:38AM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

good article..precise & very informative. every line was worth reading twice.

1:23AM PDT on Mar 24, 2011

I like this.. very powerful comments Carole K

8:38AM PDT on Oct 5, 2010

It takes a lot of mindful awareness to stop and ask yourself some of these questions instead of reacting by habit. At times it works for me and others not so much. But I'm still trying to let this be a guideline. Life is easier when it's applied.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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