Crafting Empowering Questions to Change Your Life

Filed under: personal growth

Did you know that asking yourself a question can dramatically improve the quality of your life? In this article we'll show you exactly how to craft Empowering Questions and how you can use them to easily improve the quality of your life.

How Empowering Questions Work

Our brains were built for answering questions and solving problems.

And when it comes to problems, some people's brains even go as far as to create problems that don't exist because they are bored and want to problem solve.

To give you an example, have you ever been laying in bed attempting to sleep, when suddenly a conversation you had a long time ago pops into your head? Then you ruminate about all the ways in which you should have responded?

I've done this. Many times. Oh, and just to clarify with John from 4th grade ...I went over ALL of the possible scenarios. And there was simply NO reason for you to steal my cheese crackers. 

It's easy to get stuck in what we call a negative psycho-dynamic loop, just like the cheese cracker example above illustrates.

This loop is often in the form of the question “Why?”

Why something happened, why they did what they did, why them...

Notice a pattern?

When we ask our brain questions, it generates answers - even if it's one that we don't like. For instance, if we ask ourselves, "Why am I so stupid?", our brain will start generating all possible answers and scenarios as a result.

Some answers your brain might generate could be:

  • Your parents were stupid
  • You went to a public school
  • You were bullied
  • You didn't study

This isn't something we can control. Our minds will always unconsciously create answers to our questions, which will then be brought forth to our conscious awareness.

This is where the power of Empowering Questions comes into play.

Empowering Questions are a model - a framework - for constructing a question that will encourage your unconscious mind to create POSITIVE answers and possibilities, rather than negative ones.

Building an Empowering Question is easy - and I mean really easy - because the framework is set up with simple layers that anybody can understand and implement.

Anywhere between 2-4 of these layer components can make up an Empowering Question, with each component adding depth and specificity to it.

Using all 4 layers will help you build an Empowering Question in greater detail and have a sharper focus, while using 2 layers as a minimum is recommended when you want to just quickly achieve vague answers which you can build upon later.

Let's dive into how to actually do this.

How to Build Empowering Questions

So here we go.

Here are the layers needed to encapsulate your perfect Empowering Question:

  • The first layer utilizes process words that move you forward instead of keeping you stuck, like "What" and "How".
  • The second layer places the question in the present tense or with a time constraint.
  • The third layer states the question with positive and certain intentions. We do this by changing "can" to "will", and by adding some element of positivity.
  • The fourth layer asks the question with a presupposition (as presupposing something is going to happen or has already happened). 

Let's take, for example, the previous "why" question we discussed:

"Why am I so stupid?"

Now, let's turn this rather pessimistic question into an Empowering Question:

  • First layer: "How can I get smarter?"
  • Second layer: "How can I get smarter today?"
  • Third layer: "How will I get smarter today and have a blast doing it?"
  • Fourth layer: "Since I'm learning something new each day, how will I continue to get smarter today and have a blast doing it?"

When we provide our brains with information, the more they give us conscious and unconscious feedback, and the more possibilities and opportunities for growth are created.

This means that if you ask yourself the same question over and over again, you’ll continue to get more and more answers. The strength of an Empowering Question takes hold when it’s asked on a recurring basis.

So how can you take full advantage of Empowering Questions?

How to Use Empowering Questions

The easiest way is to write them down and stick them in a place where you’ll see them frequently! Doing so will allow you to ask the question and unconsciously begin to generate new ideas and have epiphanies. It will also challenge you to think critically and outside of your norm.

You can write your empowering questions on sticky notes that you attack to your bathroom mirror. That way you'll see them every time you brush your teeth.

You can post them on your fridge door, or near your coffee maker, or beside your workstation computer so they're around you all day. 

Read them each day and take a moment to generate some answers! Which brings me to my next point:

Make Them Meaningful to You with "Nominalizations"

The real reason why Empowering Questions work so well is because they remove all the vagueness of our mind and allow us to become much more specific in our window of focus.

When we become crystal clear on what we really want, the unconscious mind and its Reticular Activating System (RAS) will begin searching for thoughts, ideas and memories of past experiences to optimally answer our questions.

The unconscious mind LOVES the meaning and understanding behind symbols, gestures, non-verbal communication, and words.

There is a specific class of words which has a different meaning to everybody - which are called nominalizations.

A nominalization is just a noun that you can't physically reach out and touch. We often say it's a noun that you can't put inside of a wheelbarrow.  

If you had a large enough wheelbarrow you could put almost anything in it. Mabye it's an umbrella, or something absurdly large like the moon.

However, with nominalizations, the noun, or subject matter being discussed, can’t fit inside of the container. That's because it doesn’t truly exist as a material object. They are labels we use to refer to subjective qualities.

They are words like:

  • Strength
  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Power
  • Flexibility
  • Friendship

Each of these words in your mind will have a subjective meaning that is unique to you.

E.g.: You and I can have totally different understandings of what it means to have STRENGTH.

These words are impactful because the meaning behind them is more important than the words themselves.

The Power of One Word

This brings me to my last tidbit of awesome information.

Now that you know what nominalizations and Empowering Questions are, one of the ways you can really begin to utilize them together is by using the ‘One Word’ question.

The One Word is super easy to understand.

If you had just one word that you would use to commit and dedicate to your year, month, week, day, etc, what word would that be?

A person may find that a single word may contain a vast amount of information, undertones, meaning, metaphor, symbolic references, and emotional attachment.

If you were to say that the word STRENGTH is the word you would use to define how you want your year to go - what meaning does that have to you?

Does a year of strength mean taking on any obstacle that comes your way? Or does it mean becoming as strong and healthy as possible?

When you are able to define what exactly a word means for you in almost any context, the deeper understanding of what it means can resonate among your entire character. That will create belief, behavior, and personality trait changes on an unconscious level.

To live with STRENGTH for the year could mean someone who wants to become strong and healthy will need to begin acting, thinking, and believing they are becoming the very word they used.

And since I know I’m already moving towards STRENGTH in my life, how will I live as a strong and powerful individual today, and have fun doing it?

Play around with empowering questions. We encourage you to craft 3-5 of your own specific empowering questions to drive you forward in life.

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