Are you asking the right questions?
When you feel like screaming in raw frustration.
When you're banging your head against a cosmic, spiritual, virtual – but oh so firm and stubborn – concrete wall.
When you certainly can't move forward, but you sure as hell can't go back.
When you're feeling yuck, muck, stuck.
And you need to move, goddammit.
Then chances are – although it feels like you are just walking in circles – your solutions are probably actually entirely logical. It couldn't have been any other way. Because it's not your solution – or lack of thereof – that is the problem. No.
If you're getting the wrong answers, you're asking the wrong questions.
Chances are that you are actually hitting some very logical and unsurprising road blocks, given the questions you are asking.
Who would hire someone like me?
Let's say you are stuck in a situation where you can't get a job. You've tried and tried, and nothing is working. You are stuck. Your whole life is on hold, because of all the things you can't do until you get your income back on track. And for every rejection letter – or every time you don't get any response at all – you are starting to doubt yourself more and more, making it even less likely that you are going to get a job, because (in your words) who would hire someone like me? And you say that in a sad, and slightly bitter way, making it clear that you understand them perfectly well. Who would hire a worthless overeducated insecure mess, like me.
But when you ask the question like that – as a matter of who – and since no one has hired you yet, the only logical answer is no one. No one has hired you, so you can't come up with any names, and the answer becomes no one. So far, at least.
There's nothing wrong with your answer. It's your question that is getting you nowhere.
IMAGINE THIS: A far more productive way of asking questions in this situation, could be not to asking yourself why, but to ask yourself how.
How can someone hire someone like me? How can I make myself more hire-able? What additional skills do I need? What personal development work do I need to do? What networking-events could be useful? How can I improve my resume, my cover letter, my confidence in an interview setting?
What is my passion?
In a different example, say you are stuck because you can't figure out what your passion is. You feel unfulfilled, you want to change your life around, you dream of quitting your job. You see all these passionate people who look so amazingly happy with what they do. And you want that too. You just don't feel that passionate about anything, or rather you do feel super-passionate from time to time, but then you lose interest really fast and jump on the next thing instead. And it would be far too stupid to take all this risk for an interest you don't even know is going to last. So you ask yourself, until you feel crazy. Whatismypassion? What IS my passion? What is MY passion What. is. my. passsssssionnnnn?
The only logical answer to that question, is that nothing is your one true passion. Except maybe, that you seem to be very passionate about the idea that everyone needs to have a passion.
IMAGINE THIS: Instead of asking yourself what, try to ask yourself why. Or where.
Why do I need to have a passion? Where am I not being honest with myself? What is the underlying belief I'm holding? Where in my life can I make the change I desire without having one specific passion figured out? Who can help me see what I am not seeing myself? What do I dislike in my life?
Start by answering those questions.
A lot can be done by just starting there.
How to ask the right questions
Change the asking word
Look at the question you are asking yourself, and identify the asking word. Then reframe the question with a different one:
What, when, where, who, why, how. For the more advanced question-makers out there, you could also try which, whose, whence, whither, wherefore or whether.
Often you have to change the question slightly to adapt it, but that is the whole point. Try to come up with at least 5 questions related to your problem, by using 5 different asking words.
Flip the sentence around
Turn your question around to make it mean the exact opposite. Who would hire someone like me? could become Who would someone like me hire? Or even Who would fire someone like me? Doing this could give you a fresh way of looking at things that could be really helpful and get you all flowing again.
It often helps to flip around different parts of your sentence each time. Try changing the subject around, flip around the verb, 0r exchange words like never with always. Keep going all the way until you run out of ideas... and then do a few more.
Get really precise about the problem
In law school, we learned how to get super super clear about the problem, and then formulating it very precisely in words. Needless to say, I find this skill to be invaluable as a life coach! After all, I am stuck, isn't a very precise way of voicing a problem, and neither is it likely that being stuck is the real source of your frustration.
Start by writing your problem down on a piece of paper. I am stuck. And then make it more specific. I am stuck because ... I can't get a job. Then write it even more specifically. I am stuck because I can't get a job, but I don't understand why. Not understanding why means I don't understand what to do differently.
It may be that you feel even more overwhelmed by expressing the problem more specifically, but least now you are being really honest about it. Getting clarity on the reason why you are not getting a job (and by that I mean getting real clarity, not just speculating destructively) could really help you get unstuck and it would be much more productive to figure out the answer to that question, than to get stuck wondering why you are stuck.
Continue questioning your problem until you feel certain that you have really understood the core of it.
Asking the right questions can be difficult and even frightening. Most of us have learned over the course of our lives that asking the right questions can lead us into trouble. We learned early that it would be better and safer to keep our mouths shut than to ask our parents why or how or when in all the right places, so we learned how to formulate questions that would be less invasive and less threatening to those we asked.
And then we internalised this skill and we keep avoiding the real questions out of habit.
It's time to change that.
Asking the right questions can help you get the right answers.
All that is left asking then, is
when are you willing to change?