(By David K. Williams)

The best way to solve a problem, is not to complain about the problem. It’s to come up with better questions. Asking the right questions is a proactive and effective way of solving our own problems. They help us create solutions instead of roadblocks. They create gratitude. And they help us shape our thinking in the right direction to drive success and results.

I’ve been talking about the 7 Non-Negotiables over the past several weeks leading up to the release of my book, The 7 Non-Negotiables of Winning: Tying Soft Traits to Hard Results. Today I’d like to talk on Gratitude. We develop an “attitude of gratitude” when we learn to ask ourselves the right questions, to reframe our thinking into productive and powerful thoughts.

How can we do this? Author Marilee Adams presents a strategy in her book, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. The best way to solve a problem, she says, is not to complain about the problem. It’s to come up with better questions. Asking the right questions is a proactive and effective way of solving our own problems. They help us create solutions instead of roadblocks. They create gratitude. And they help us shape our thinking in the right direction to drive success and results.

As a simple example, “What should I wear today?” can lead to a series of questions such as “Where am I going today?” “Is it cool or hot outside?” “What’s clean?” “What’s comfortable?” Today, and every day, you are wearing your answers to these questions.

At a higher level, the right questions can drive our business results. For example, “What is the best way for me to serve my shareholders?” “What will satisfy my customers most?” “What will genuinely engage my employees?” Adams points out that we should focus 80 percent of our communication on asking, and 20 percent on telling. For most of us, however, it’s the other way around.

In addition to asking more questions, how could we influence our attitude and outcome if we were to simply ask better questions? For every one of us, I would bet quite a bit.

To get the ball rolling, I’d like to share a Top 10 List of questions from life coach Martha Beck. I selected my list from her article “20 Questions That Could Change Your Life” in O Magazine. Some are humorous. All are insightful. But here are my favorite 10:

1. How do I want the world to be different because I lived in it? Think about how you’d want to be remembered when you are gone. What are the things that mean the most to you? Do your life’s activities reflect these priorities? Asking these questions is the first step in living and working by design, and not by accident.

2. How do I want to be different because I lived in the world? What are the experiences you want to have? Create a vision board. Or a bucket list. Bearing these priorities in mind can do much to direct your life and work towards these goals.

3. How much junk could a chic chick chuck if a chic chick could chuck junk? This is Martha’s way of expressing the Lao Tzu concept of “To be learned, add something each day. To be enlightened drop something each day.” If we think about it, each of us has possessions, thoughts and even relationships we’d be better off without. Too many magazines, books, dinners out, worldly possessions. Too many meetings, too many emails and too much time on social media. We can lighten our load (and the load of others) if we find the courage to let those things go.

4. What’s so funny? Toddlers laugh instinctively and naturally about 400 times every day. Adults, not so much. We still laugh, on average, 15 times a day—but that includes nervous laughter, sarcastic laughter, or just the social convention of filling the air with agreeable sounds. When was the last time you really, unreservedly, laughed out loud? It’s therapeutic. We should all do more of it.

5. Where am I wrong? Here’s one of the most powerful questions in the universe. If we asked the question “Where am I wrong?” of our teams rather than investing our effort on proving we’re not wrong, imagine how much more we would accomplish and how much better we would become?

6. Am I the only one struggling not to {belch} during {church}?You can substitute your own mortifying and embarrassing fears. All of us have forgotten an important name, worn the wrong thing, missed an important appointment, or spilled something terrible on ourselves (or on somebody else). We all carry the inherent fear of committing a horrible gaffe. So recognizing the fact that we’re all in that boat together can help you put your needless worries to bed.

7. What do I love to practice? Some psychologists believe none of us were born with foreordained talents or skills. Our “talents,” so to speak, are simply the skills we’ve developed through things we’ve elected to practice for 10,000 hours or more. This may or may not be accurate (for example, if you are naturally tone deaf you may never be hired to sing the national anthem), but the line of thinking may prove to be helpful: If you remove the pre-conceived limitations of “I can’t run” “I’m not musically talented” or “I can’t speak in front of people” the world may begin to look entirely different to you. If the sky is the limit, where would you choose to develop your skills?

8. Where should I break the rules? What things do we do by convention or custom that no longer make sense? Asking this question can help us stay in tune with our insights and our own moral compass to know when the traditional rules or status quo should be discarded in favor of something better.

9. Are my thoughts hurting or healing? Rehearsing the script of misunderstandings or hurts does not promote healing. It merely feeds the pain of regret or shame. Replace those dreary thoughts with a story of learning or gratitude. Of all the questions, this may be the most vital of all. How can you re-write the script in your mind to put your thinking into a grateful and positive place? If you can do this, just about everything else on this list will naturally flow from it.

10. Really, truly: Is this what I want to be doing? Within your life, or in a career or a company, there are many more options available to you than you may currently believe. Are you good at communications? Sales? At problem solving and fixing things? Are you more effective in working with people or things? Find the ways to spend a greater proportion of your living and working time in pursuit of the things you find inspiring, enriching, and even delightful. In most every situation, I guarantee you will find at least some.

Today I challenge each of us to ask more questions as we communicate with ourselves and as we interact with each other. I suggest you ask these questions (along with your own personal favorites) every week, if not every day. They will help you to discover (or rediscover) your “attitude of gratitude,” and will improve the quality and the satisfaction you achieve in both business and the other areas of your life.

(Source: Forbes)

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”