Are your beliefs rooted in negative thoughts that hold you back from real happiness and success? Or are they the catalyst that feeds into a positive view of the world, and your place in it? Questioning your beliefs and what drives your behavior is not usually a habitual practice, however, I would highly recommend it. Asking the right questions with an element of curiosity and mindfulness can help dig you out of a funk, a destructive routine or simply shift your mood from negative to a more positive outlook in a very short time.

There is a helpful process called Appreciative Inquiry, often referred to as AI, that can set you on the path to asking unconditional, positive questions, and determining transformative answers. The AI model was brought to light in the late 80s by Case Western Reserve University's department of organizational behavior, in order to offer alternate problem solving methods. It's a simple practice -- yet it is very powerful. AI is often used in organizational change, but it's also useful for strategic planning, driving innovation and improving customer service. In the workplace, AI can also lead to further understanding, creativity and team building.

The process itself can be an incredible motivator. By regularly asking yourself a set of questions, you can better gauge your progress in all aspects of life. The idea is to focus on what is working in your life versus what is not working. Think of it as a no holds barred, super-charged, brain storming session. Negativity and closed-minded thinking are not invited to the table. Through the AI process you can reshape your destiny and influence your experiences simply by realigning your intention and focus. You must try to envision the most optimistic outcomes and focus on the positive while answering a series of questions.

Here is the "4 D" cycle of inquiry to follow.

Discovery:

Appreciate what is and acknowledge the best of what is now.

Dream:

Imagine what might be so that you can develop a clear vision.

Design:

Determine what should be with implementation and action plans.

Destiny or Delivery:

Results that would come through implementation.

Here's how AI might work in a business setting:

Questions you might ask for "Discovery": If you could keep three things that give life to this organization -- what would they be? Share the best example of something you did in your organization that was a source of innovation and success. Other examples might be: What do our clients want us to become? What would give us the biggest bang for the buck?

You can borrow from this process and use it in your personal life to gain clarity, and purpose. Choose an aspect of your life that you wish to focus on, for example, happiness. You might ask yourself...

1. Under what conditions do I excel? When I am operating at my best, what am I doing?

2. When I have felt genuine happiness, what was I doing, or what was happening in my life?

3. When thinking of my friends and family, who puts a smile on my face, and why?

4. What are my talents and what are the benefits I realize when I have the opportunity to express them?

5. How do I put those talents into place in my daily life?

6. What is one thing that I can do tomorrow (today, this week, this month...) that moves me a step closer to creating the life that I want?

7. What resources are available to me to help me take this step forward?

Remember, inspiration can be found by asking the right questions. Be persistent. Review the "4D" cycle of inquiry and make note of any strong feelings, visualizations, and thoughts that come to mind. You may not be able to control everything in life but you can surely drive your destiny through your actions -- as long as you have the capacity to change.

Published on: Jul 18, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.