Powerful Questions that Just Might Change Your Life
Power Questions #3 and #4: How to bridge the gaps and face the truth.
Part 3 in a series devoted to four power questions that can dramatically change your life.
In 35 years of experience as a family and marital therapist, organizational leadership consultant and life coach, I have repeatedly used the following 4 power questions for focused inquiry that often produces life changing results.
Power Question #1: “What are the top 1 or 2 things to CELEBRATE?”
Power Question #2: “What is the ONE thing MISSING that, if added, would make the biggest difference?”
Answering these two questions lets you build on strengths, giving you a strong leg up in life while also bringing into focus the critical “missing” piece that can significantly leverage what is already working for you.
In this post, we’ll dive into power questions 3 and 4.
When used in combination with questions 1 and 2, these powerful questions can dramatically transform how you approach decision points in life.
“What is the ONE thing that is NOT WORKING that, if addressed, would make the biggest positive difference in your life, relationship, work, or organization?”
“What is the ONE thing that is most CONFUSING that, if clarified, would most help you, your relationship, your family, your work, or your organization?”
When you have the courage to face the truth and ask, “What is the ONE thing that is most awry, off the mark, or simply not working?”, it helps focus your mind on the real problem. It illuminates the truth about what is generating pain, robbing you of full enjoyment of life or keeping you from moving forward as you wish to do.
Face the truth to relieve the pressure.
In the healing art of acupressure, the focus of attention on key points on the body has the power to release tension, pain and the blocked flow of vital energy. The same principle of working with “pressure points” also applies to all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional.
I like to think of these pressure points as places of high potential. When you have the courage to work with and through them, you can make the most significant, substantive difference. If you face the truth by courageously identifying the top one or two things that are most in need of correction or improvement, you bring conscious attention to the course correction with the highest potential for positive change.
Asking “What is the ONE thing that is most confusing?” brings even greater clarity. It’s only when we shine a light on what we don’t understand, that we are able to seek the information that will allow us to act with wisdom.
How these powerful questions can help us face the truth.
Let me share an example. I was working with a couple whose marriage was in great distress. Now, it probably is not a surprise to you that when couples seek counseling, it is usually not because things are working.
In fact, seeing me was the least of three evils. They could continue “as is”, breakup the relationship, or seek a family and marital therapist. This couple was completely stuck, and while they professed their love for each other, neither felt they could go on any further if their way of relating did not improve.
Remember from the first powerful question that you cannot improve things if you only focus on what is wrong. This is true whether it is about yourself, your family or your organization. The best first step is always to identify the top one or two things that are worth celebrating – the strengths that already exist.
#1. What is there to celebrate?
When I asked the first power question, “What are the one or two things to celebrate here?”, the couple was able to identify a shared faith and their love of family. Leveraging that provided a larger context and perspective for their marriage, something that they could feel good about and actually celebrate.
We took time to do that by discussing those two key things in detail, what these values meant to them individually and together. This brought energy and positive feelings into the room. You could feel the energetic shift take place after only ten minutes.
#2. What is the ONE missing thing?
Then, the second power question was asked, “Keeping in mind what you have to celebrate, what is the one thing missing that, if added, would make your marriage stronger, better?” The answer was immediate from both of them, “Intimacy, connection, feeling truly cared for or special.”
#3. What is not working?
The third power question was a logical follow-up, “What are the one or two things not working or needing to be addressed that would make the most difference?” This took some discussion, and some back and forth between wife and husband before the answers emerged that both could agree on: “communication” and “time commitment” needed to be addressed.
Communication was actually tied to the sense that neither of them were making time for each other in their busy lives of work and parenting. Their marriage was starving from a lack of quality attention. Neither of them felt that they were important or a priority to their partner.
This led to a rich, deep discussion that I kept tying back to the top two things to celebrate. For example, “Help me understand, if you both have a strong common faith and you love your family, with all of that, what is preventing you from celebrating each other, from building on those strengths?”
#4. What is most confusing?
Questions such as these led to an in-depth exploration and brought forth the fourth power question, “What is most confusing to you that, if clarified, could help you the most in moving forward?” After some reflection, they agreed that what was confusing them was the apparent lack of action by the other to fix the problem.
It turns out that the wife was trying to fix the problem by doing special things like fixing meals her husband liked and wearing her hair the way he liked it, which was down when she preferred it up. The husband was trying to fix the problem by telling her how attractive she was, complimenting her choice in clothes and her hair and putting the children to bed so she could have some time alone.
But, as they realized in the discussion, they were NOT facing the truth and addressing the most critical elements. With the best of intentions, they were putting Band-Aids on a major wound that was slowly bleeding their relationship to death.
From your perspective, dear reader, you can already tell what they needed to do.
However, when you are in it, so close to it, it can be extremely difficult to see what most needs to be done.
What they discovered, when reviewing their discussion coming out of the answers to the four power questions, was that they needed to carve out special time to simply connect with each other and celebrate the love of their mutual faith and of their family. There was no substitute and the other actions, while good, were NOT the essential ones that would really bring healing and that “loving feeling” back into their relationship.
From there, it was very easy to structure a “date” night once a week for the two of them to focus on communicating with each other, putting attention and time into each other. In addition, they created and then agreed on a daily twenty-minute ritual to celebrate what was right and to build on the deeper sense of connection.
20 minutes a day to be vulnerable and to love.
The ritual was simple: each night before bed they sat down, facing each other, holding hands. Taking turns, they each took 5 minutes to share something about their day while the other listened attentively. After taking 2 minutes to thoughtfully reflect on what their spouse had shared, they took one minute for confirmation and clarity. Then, they would pray together.
20 minutes a day to connect. So simple, yet utterly transformative.
Using the four power questions is not a one-time deal.
They are designed for repeated use, allowing situations, relationships, and enterprises to keep evolving toward the highest potential.
I love the James Baldwin quote cited above. It is a perfect match for Dr. James Farr’s quote mentioned in our discussion of the Power Question #1: “Be careful how you aim your mind. It is a powerful reality-creating device.”
Whenever you access the courage to see the current reality around you, these questions will be of great value in informing your thinking, planning and course of action. They help you to both “aim” your mind while courageously facing into the most significant challenges that need your attention.
Then, through personal reflection or dialogue with a friend, colleague, partner or expert, face the truth and move forward more powerfully.
Have the courage to face the truth in this moment.
Right now, ask yourself, “What is the ONE thing that is not working in my life that, if addressed, would make the biggest difference?
“What is the ONE thing that is most confusing in my life right now that, if clarified, would make the biggest positive difference?”
What comes up for you? Would you share it in the comments below?