to build-your-resilience-ask-better-questions

Want to know how to build your resilience during challenging times? Well the clue is in the question I just asked. To build resilience Ask better questions.

In the previous 2 articles we saw how simply being grateful for the things we do have, and taking care of our basic physical needs – vitality, can help us to build our resilience even during challenging times. These are simple, practical things anyone can do, to build resilience. Here’s another way to help build your resilience.

To build resilience ask better questions.

Our brains have enormous capacity to access information, solve complex challenges, or uncover possibilities to deliver whatever we ask. The problem is it tends to take our requests literally.

“Your wish is my command”. Think of your brain like a trusted and loyal family dog eagerly waiting to please you. When I ask “Why can’t I lose weight?” it’s as if my brain says, “I’ll get that for you!” and retrieves the answer to the specific question I asked; “because you eat high fat foods, you don’t exercise regularly, you don’t drink enough water”. Ouch!

By the way, I just asked Siri (on my i-phone) ‘why can’t I lose weight?’ Guess what she came back with? 5 articles on why I can’t lose weight, not solutions on how to lose it.

Avoid asking limiting questions

In the example above, instead of helping me find a solution to my problem (i.e. to lose weight), my question collected data to support why I “can’t have what I want”.

Have you ever heard someone ask a question like?

downloaded from Google images April 2020

‘How am I supposed to get anything done when I’m
working from home?
‘Why am I always running late?’
‘How come I can never save any money?’
‘Why do I always forget my keys?’
‘Why do I always forget my passwords?
‘How come I never have time to work out?’ or
‘Why am I the only one who sets up the zoom calls?’

While these may sound like complaints, deep down there’s usually an earnest desire for things to be different.
What do you notice about the way each of these questions are phrased?
Well, one thing is that they are focused on what the person does not want.
I call these limiting questions because they tend to limit my focus to the things that aren’t working rather than finding a solution to my challenge.

Remember the Reticular Activating System (RAS) from the gratitude article? It’s the part of the brain responsible for what we pay attention too. To some extent, it helps us to filter out things that we think are not important and to look for things we think that are.

For example, when I ask ‘how come I can never save any money?’, my brain is now looking for answers as to why I can’t save money – ‘because you make impulsive purchases, you don’t set financial goals and you have no willpower’…. – ouch!
While some of that information can be informative (like making impulsive purchases) most people don’t really want answers to the limiting question and are often not even aware that they’re asking them.

Ask a limiting question and you almost always get a limiting answer.

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Ask Better Questions

Questions are a powerful way to help focus our attention and when we ask a more resourceful question, we’re shifting our attention to find more resourceful answers.

For example, instead of asking ‘why can’t I save money?’ What if I asked.
‘How can I save more money, consistently and easily?’ – ‘let’s see, I could set a goal that’s really inspiring, I can set up automatic deposits to my RSP, I can put my Visa card into the freezer so that I spend less, and I’ll eat more meals at home.’ 😉😉

I call this re-framing. I’m simply shifting my attention from what I don’t want, to focus on what I do want.

Here is an example of some common limiting questions, and the same question framed more positively.

How to Ask Better Questions

Here are some common limiting questions, and the same question framed more positively.

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5 Steps to Asking Better Questions:

  1. Be aware of the questions you ask yourself. Ever misplaced your car keys and thought, ‘Why do I always forget my keys?’
  2. Interrupt and correct yourself! That’s not true. I don’t always forget my keys! I’ve remembered them every morning for last 30 days!
  3. Think about what you do want. I want to remember my car keys (duh) and be able to find them easily, every time.
  4. Re-frame the question to ask for what you do want. What’s one thing I can do so that I can always find my car keys easily?
  5. Practice. Keep re-framing your questions until it becomes a habit.


Most likely, your own self-talk is positive, and you naturally ask better questions that help you to be more resourceful and resilient.

How is your team, family members, or colleagues doing during this challenging time?

What’s a way you could teach others to ask better questions so they are more resourceful, more hopeful, and are building their own resilience?

‘Team, I know it can be challenging staying connected right now… What are some things we can do as a team to make sure we’re staying connected?’ or

‘Team, I know we’ve been asked to shift gears, to do things differently and with fewer resources right now, and it’s challenging… What are some things we can do to: i.e. add even more value, or, to stay motivated, or, to look after each other, or (fill in your own) _______________________.

Whether you’re a formal or informal leader, a parent, or someone that others look up to, you can help others to feel and be more resourceful during these times, simply by asking more resourceful questions.

What’s one way we could all help each other during this challenging time?

What if you shared one of your better questions in the comments below?

Maybe your question will help others to be more resilient.

Stay tuned for part 4 of How to build your resilience during challenging times.

For more on resilience, check out these other quick reads:

on gratitude

on vitality

on optimism