Sometimes, being asked the right question at the right moment is a powerful motivator. Case in point: My dad said to me at college graduation, "We know what you can do. But who are you going to be?" At the time, I wanted a job and hadn’t yet realized how connected employment is with happiness and life’s purpose. I was a bit too hungover to come up with a good answer in the moment. However, the question stuck with me, and it resurfaces when I'm off-track.

Good questions make us think and trigger our brains to switch into "what if" and "how to" modes. Great, reflective questions can help us focus (or even find focus, when it's lacking) on what we want and how we're going to get it. Ultimately, the answer has to come from within.

The next time you're off-track professionally or just plain stuck, ask yourself the following questions. But before you do, take a moment to jot down your three big business goals. As you work your way through the questions, write down your thoughts.

  1. What recent (within the last year) accomplishment makes me the most proud?
  2. What recent accomplishment would the people in my most inner circle (partner, best friend, mentor, etc.) say makes them most proud of me?
  3. Looking at my "to-do" list, what single thing would my customer say is most important? My boss/investors? My mentor? Myself?
  4. Of the groups above, whose interests most align with my own goals?
  5. What people do I know (or know of) who have achieved similar goals?
  6. What is one conversation I can schedule that will bring me a step closer to my goals?
  7. Who could I recruit to lend a hand in achieving my goals?
  8. What is one skill that I've picked up in the last year?
  9. What is one more skill I will definitely need to accomplish my goals?
  10. What action is needed to gain that skill, such as a class, on-the-job experience, a partnership or exchange, or even a YouTube video watched a couple dozen times?
  11. What opportunities am I hoping for?
  12. What opportunities am I counting on?
  13. What was my luckiest break at work?
  14. What do I suspect was my biggest missed opportunity?
  15. What one thing am I most worried about?
  16. What is the worst thing someone might say about me if I try and fail?
  17. What is the worst thing someone might say about me if I don't try at all?
  18. What will happen if I don't achieve it?
  19. If I could step back in time one year, what encouragement would I offer myself?
  20. If I could fast-forward one year, what advice would I tell myself?
  21. How will it make me feel?
  22. What is one specific thing that achieving my goals will allow me to do?
  23. Why is this goal so important to me?
  24. Who do I want to be?
  25. What is one action I could take today to get myself closer to my goals?
  26. What is one action I could take this week?

When you’re done, reflect on any of the questions that generated a new idea or perspective. Did a new “to-do” pop into your head with No. 26? Commit to taking at least one step towards your goal by completing that action. 

These questions, of course, aren’t just for self-reflection. Using questions like these to help a client through a tough challenge can be an incredibly powerful tactic. Check out this thought on the power of questions from Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO. When you get really good at it, asking reflective questions can also be the foundation for a successful coaching, consulting, mediation, or facilitation business. Looking for more great questions? Josh Linkner shares these nine questions focused on breakthrough achievement. 

Asking questions of ourselves now and again is a way to check in and confirm that we're on the right course, or to course correct and move in a new direction. Return to the above list of questions about work, purpose, and impact whenever you're just not sure what to do next. Or check out this site with hundreds more examples. Beautiful.

Published on: Aug 21, 2015
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