Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers…

What you get out of life may be the result of the questions you ask. Every one of us has probably heard the saying, “Ask and you shall receive.” Most times that is true. People who go looking for something usually find it. It may take time, but, almost always, we get what we ask for. Go looking for a fight, you’ll find someone else who wants to throw down. Go to the doctor and ask him why you are sick, and he will tell you you have an infection. Ask and you shall receive. Therefore, it’s good practice to look at the quality of the questions we are asking. 

One we’ve all heard before is, “Why do these things always happen to me?!

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We hear questions like that all too often, and we may have even said ones like it ourselves. However, we usually don’t even listen to the answer. For example, many people ask me why they are always tired or have no energy.  I answer, tired is a state of mind. If you ask yourself why you always feel tired, but you never leave the couch or your bed, then the answer is obvious: get out of bed and move! Energy is movement; without movement energy doesn’t exist. It’s true, potential energy is momentarily static, non moving. But, potential energy wouldn’t exist without kinetic energy, energy that is moving. A couch potato is a big lump of potential energy. Therefore, you need to convert that potential energy into kinetic energy and get your ass moving!

Still, people often don’t change. We ask those questions in a helpless, victimized state of mind, as if our conscious decision making has no effect on the things that happen to us. Why do those things always happen to me, why do I always feel so tired, why do things have to be that way; these are useless, wasteful questions if we don’t first listen to the answers and messages the world sends back our way.

Surely, these questions give us knowledge. And knowledge is power. For many of us, though, the seeking of knowledge has become a type of masturbation for our brain. We scroll through twitter, facebook, and all sorts of blogs, picking up random bits of information and factoids, but we never do a thing with them. We chuckle as we read, “’A healthy, loving sexual relationship with your wife or significant other will decrease stress, result in a happier home life, and make the two of you live longer,’ says a study conducted by ______ University.” Then, we look at our significant other and decide we are too tired to seduce them. Similarly, if you walk through a college campus you can see a good majority of the students in between classes scrolling through twitter feeds, reading newspaper headings but not the whole article, “liking,”  “favoriting,” or “retweeting” posts and articles about childhood abuse and the like, as if that kind of action or knowledge does anything significant. Fifty “likes” on a post from people who aren’t real friends, but acquaintances, may make a person smile; however, that is nothing compared to a phone call from a brother, sister, or best friend.

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The point is that questions like, “why did this happen,” too often result in inaction. Knowledge is useless without action. You have three apples, I have two oranges – that’s good, but now what? You can name all fifty states, memorize the number pi to 2000 digits, and throw a baseball 100 mph, so what? What are you going to do with it? What are you going to do about the why, the knowledge? If you never ask a question that allows you to take action then you will remain a helpless victim. Why did this happen, how did this happen, who did this to me? None of these questions are worth a thought if you are not going to ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?” And that’s the second thing we need to do; ask a better question.

Have you ever went to your family doctor with an injury, or painful joint that just wouldn’t seem to go away. I have. I’ve played baseball all my life, and quarterback for my high school football team, so my shoulder became twisted up from overuse. Certain parts were tight, others loose, and it was practically out of the socket. I asked several doctors and a medical student about my shoulder, and all of them said the same thing, “Ice it and take some ibuprofen.” That helped – until the medicine wore off and I took off the ice. Soon enough my shoulder was causing back pain. I knew I had to try something else.

My friend in college was studying athletic training. I spoke with him one day, and asked, “Hey man, my shoulder is killing me, it  feels like I need someone to yank on it. It’s like someone jabbed a knife in my back, right into my shoulder blade. I don’t really want to take pain medicine, and ice only helps while I hold it on my shoulder. Is that all I can do to help it, or is there something else I could try?”

My friend said he would look at it and see what he could do. I cannot describe the relief I was feeling a few minutes later. Sure, pain medicine and ice alleviated the symptoms, but what my friend did actually changed something in my shoulder. The muscles and tendons were relaxed, and my shoulder was finally back in the socket where it needed to be. My friend went on to explain what he had done and what the problem was. Next, he showed me what I could do by myself to help the pain on a regular basis.

Because of the sports I played, my shoulder and back pain aren’t exactly cured, but they are both more manageable, and much less severe, than ever before. With time, practice, and continuing my research into strength and mobility training, I have come close to resolving those pains completely – without pills that can have negative side effects over time. This answer, this possibility, came about because I asked a better question.

In addition to asking a better question, I also asked a different type of person. Who you ask is just as important as what you ask. Ask a doctor, and you will get a doctor’s method of healing, a trainer will give you a different answer, and a physical therapist yet another. They all have different points of view, they all have different answers. If you ask your mom or dad how to get an A on a test, they will probably say something like, “Study hard, know the material your teacher gave you.” But, if you ask an older brother or sister who had the same teacher two years before, they might ask you “What unit is it? Which chapter? Is that the one about cells? Oh, then make sure you know this. And, she always likes to ask questions this way, so you better prepare for a page long essay.” Which answer was more helpful? If you are a college student, I highly recommend you go to the professor’s office hours; because he or she will probably tell you exactly what you need to know, or don’t need to know.

Too often we waste time asking our friends or peers pointless questions they don’t know the answers to, and we wonder why nothing significant is happening in our lives. Friends are very important to have. Friends are one of life’s greatest treasures. But, if the only answer they can give you is, “I don’t know,” or, “who cares?” or some other lame answer, then go ask someone who can give you a better one, or at least point you in the right direction.

The last measure of a good question is it’s specificity. A good question is specific, it trims the fat, avoiding vagueness. When I worked in a gym, people would always ask things like, “How do I lose weight?” To which I answer, “Move more and eat better.” How can I give a much better answer than that? A better question would be, “How do I lose 20 pounds?” An even better question would be, “How do I lose 20 pounds in a month?

Specificity gives the person you are asking more direction; they can ask you better questions back. But it also shows the person you’re asking, as well as yourself, that you are serious about what you are asking and what you want. It shows that you have truly thought about the question and spent a significant amount of time trying to formulate an idea. Something is driving you. You actually want the answer. The answer means something to you.

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No matter what it is – losing weight, making money, or anything your heart desires – you can’t get something for nothing. Often times all we have to offer is time, so at least spend it sincerely. In school, when you walk up to a teacher and say, “I don’t know how to do this. Can you help me?” What is the first thing they do? Well, if they are a good teacher they start to ask you questions about what they have been teaching you. They drag you on and on, letting you answer simple questions until you eventually arrive at the answer or next step. However, if you come up them and say something like, “I understand that this is where we start, and you said that we do this next, but here I don’t remember if we do this or this.” They will be able to tell you what to do and why. You get a solid, definitive answer because, well, you earned it! In the case of the latter, you spent so much time on your own, the teacher rewards you and makes sure to clear up any confusion. You took your time, asked a better question, and you got a better answer.

Ask and you shall receive. Look at the questions you are asking on a daily basis. Are they getting you anywhere? Are you listening to the answers, asking the right people? Is the question specific enough? Once you’re ready, what you get out of life is up to you. So, ask better questions.

“What can I do? Not, “Why should I?”

“Why can’t I?”… No, ask, “How can I?”

Ask a better question.