I’m a big believer in powerful questions. The right question at the right time is an epic combination that can provoke powerful change—if we’re open to it. Every time I’ve experienced a shift in my thinking, it’s been because someone has asked me a powerful question, so I reached out to nine of my favourite coaches and writers to share theirs…
“What do you love so much that you would pay to do it every single day? How can you get paid to do that?”
My coach asked me this question 2 years ago as I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. It took me weeks to come up with an answer. So many things seemed worth doing, but one that I would pay to do every single day? Hm. Finally, one warm summer night I came home from a day spent in deep conversation with my mom (of all people :)) and realized: This is it. I want to spend my days being in deep conversation with people, and inspiring them to see their life differently. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a life coach.
“How do you want to feel?”
This question came to me a year after I answered the first one. I was knee deep in action mode, trying to figure out how to start my business as a life coach. I was sitting in front of my laptop all day everyday, thinking that I didn’t have time for anything but work.
Then I stumbled across Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map and heard her say that we’re not chasing the goal, we’re chasing the feeling that we hope achieving it would give us. Whoa! I realized I felt like crap most days, and started figuring out how I wanted to feel instead. Small changes started adding up, and these days my life is all about the feelings – I only do things that make me feel easeful and inspired. This question can be a game changer.
– Iris Barzen, irisbarzen.com
Because I used to tell myself lots of stories about my wanting: that I didn’t know what I wanted, and even if I did I couldn’t have it. Wanting is often weighed down by all our crappy (often inherited) thoughts: it can make us feel needy, undeserving, selfish. When I set aside all the stuff that was in the way of what I wanted, my wants revealed themselves with certainty and clarity. Which leads me to part two:
“Who will you need to evolve into, for what you want to be yours?”
So maybe you need to move out of dreaming about being an artist and put some paint on the canvas? Perhaps you need to stop writing about your future love in your journal and go on some dates! Or maybe you need to tell people that you are in training to be a coach and you’d love to share what you’re learning and how can we make this happen? Whatever the answer is for you, this question is about claiming your own power to begin walking towards the thing you want. This is never a passive exercise, often its uncomfortable – but thats the point right? On the journey of evolving into the person that has the thing you want, you will be given a hundred reasons to quit. Keep going. I promise you will meet yourself on the other side. And she is spectacular.
– Sas Petherick, saspetherick.com
The most powerful question someone ever asked me: Why? It’s so simple and so effective. Whenever I’m stuck on something and it feels like I’m going round in circles, I just ask, Why? and keep asking Why? until I get to the bottom of things. For example: I don’t know what to write about… why? Because I don’t know what would help my community. Why? I haven’t connected with them in a while. Why? I’ve been busy with other stuff. Why? That feels easier. Why? Connecting with my community means opening up, listening, being vulnerable. Ok let’s stop here. So I’m stuck on what to write because I don’t want to open up and be vulnerable. Well, there’s my answer. That’s the best place to start!
– Kendra Tanner, simplyunassuming.com
One of the most powerful questions I’ve ever been asked is, “How do you want to feel?”
It’s funny- that is the basis for the majority of the work I do now- but 4-5 years ago, it was totally a foreign concept to me to base how I acted, what I thought, and who I interacted with based on what I wanted. I was so disconnected from my body and from the source of my emotions that I believed they were just kind of there- things that happened to me, things to try and control and ignore. It completely opened my mind to realize that instead of basing my life on what I was supposed to achieve, I could do so based on how I wanted to feel- physically/mentally/
– Kate Marolt, katemarolt.com
This was asked to me when I felt I wasn’t ready to launch a program offering. Yet, I realized that I’ll actually never know when I’m ready, since “ready” can’t be measured. It reminded me of thinking back to a time when I was waiting for things to be perfect. In both cases, I recognized that their will never be a point when I would know that I’m ready or have reached perfection (if such a place even existed? ;p). So, now I just go for it: ready, FIRE, aim!
– Josh Barad, inthemiddleseat.com
“Did anyone ever swoop in to save you from your mistakes? In retrospect, would you have wanted them to? Or, are you glad that you got to make those mistakes and learn from them on your own terms?”
A couple of years ago, I was coached by the brilliant Nona Jordan. During a session, she asked me, “Did anyone ever swoop in to save you from your mistakes?” and after much thought, I answered no. Then she asked, “In retrospect, would you have wanted them to? Or, are you glad that you got to make those mistakes and learn from them on your own terms?”
Wow. This triple set of questions completely rocked me – rocked the way that I relate to my clients, to my family, and to everyday conversations. There was so much permission braided into these questions. Permission for each of us to figure things out on our own. Permission for me to not have all of the answers. These questions fundamentally altered the way that I communicate with people in my daily life.
– Mara Glatzel, maraglatzel.com
A friend asked me this when we were discussing an issue that has continually come up for me over the years. Instead of leaning into it and being curious so that I can break through the wall and move on, I keep resisting it. She calls it the wall and I think when the wall is there, the only way we break through is by being open to what it has to teach us. When we face the wall we must accept that this is where we are, rather than resist.
– Claire De Boer, thegiftofwriting.com
Someone once asked me, “What would you still be, even if you lost your mental acuity?” This was during a time when I was grappling with big, scary questions about my identity in the face of troubled health — particularly my identity as a writer and a thinker, and what would happen to my sense of self if I couldn’t be those things anymore. As it turned out, a lot of the other ways in which I identify have to do with my capabilities as someone who loves and is loving. It opened a big inner conversation for myself.
– Esmé Weijun Wang, esmewang.com
The first time I was asked this question, it shook my world in the best way possible. Shifting my mindset and imagining how I would feel if I could do something was the jump-start I needed to actually believe I could, and then follow through to make it a reality.
– Ashley Wilhite, yoursuperawesomelife.com
This question comes in the final chapter of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and it hit me in a deep place. The idea that pursuing our dream is not only about becoming a new version of ourselves, but also about shedding our old appearances is a powerful perspective and it left me deep in thought about the stories and beliefs I’m clinging onto in the present to keep myself small and safe.
What’s the most powerful question anyone has ever asked you? Leave a comment and share.
Further reading: 16 creatives share their tips on how to nourish your creativity & 5 questions to ask yourself when you’re feeling stuck
Image: Vincentiu Solomon