The Power of Asking the Right Question

A few weeks ago, I sat down with an old friend to catch up. He lost his job about nine months ago in a recession-induced layoff and has been unable to find another job. He’s had plenty of interviews just no offers.

Businessman Asking Himself a Question - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/stevanovicigor, Image #17007805

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/stevanovicigor

“What’s wrong with me?” he asked. “Why won’t someone offer me a job?” He was clearly discouraged.

I am sure he wasn’t even conscious of the question he was asking. It just bubbled up from his subconscious. But it was a good example of a bad question.

Questions are powerful tools. They can ignite hope and lead to new insights. They can also destroy hope and keep us stuck in bad assumptions.

The key is to be intentional and choose our questions well.

For example, when something bad happens, you could ask:

  • Why does this always happen to me?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • What’s wrong with me?

As soon as we ask these questions, our brains go to work, serving up answers. It is almost automatic. The answers have a way of reinforcing the assumptions behind the question.

For example, if you ask “What’s wrong with me?” you are assuming there IS something wrong with you. Your mind immediately begins proposing possible answers.

Maybe it’s because:

  • You’re too old.
  • You’re too young.
  • You’re inexperienced.
  • You’re overqualified.
  • You’re too assertive.
  • You’re too passive.

Whatever the question, the answers reinforce the assumption and provide an excuse for why you are not getting the results you want.

But what if you ask a different question? For example, my friend could ask:

  • What could I do to make my interviews more memorable?
  • What are the two or three attributes that make me the best possible candidate for the job?
  • How can I follow up in a way that makes it easier for the prospective employer to say “yes”?
  • How could my apparent liabilities really be an asset in this situation?

These are constructive questions. They empower and create new possibilities. They lead to action. And they will produce results.

The last question is particularly interesting. How could your apparent liabilities really be an asset in this situation?

For example, if you think you are too old, that could, in fact, be a tremendous asset. You have no doubt made a lot of mistakes and have learned from them. As a result, you have better judgment.

If you think you don’t have enough experience, that too could be a great asset. You aren’t locked into the same assumptions as more experienced candidates. It is easier for you to think “outside the box” and approach problems with a fresh perspective.

Here are four ways to ask better, more empowering questions:

  1. Become conscious of the questions you are asking yourself.
  2. Evaluate these questions: Is this a good question? If not, what’s a better one?
  3. Choose the better question. Be intentional.
  4. Write down the answers that your brain serves up. Act on these insights.

This whole process goes back to a premise I have written about many times:

If you want to change the results you are getting, you must change your thinking.

Everything—everything!—starts there.

Question: What would asking different questions make possible for you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

    “As a man thinks, so is he.” LOVE this post, Michael. Clearly our thinking must change. Thank you for your wise insights.

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      Several verses popped into my head as well! I was very encouraged by this post.

      • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

        Indeed, Brandon. Always encouraged by Michael’s posts.

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        Me, too. With every line I kept thinking “God’s been trying to tell us this for a long time!”

        • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

          When it finally hits me that He has been trying to tell me something I look back and see all the signs and wonder “how am I just now seeing this?” 

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    One of the best ways to ask better questions is to find a mentor or coach to help. When I’ve gone through tough times, it’s been hard to get a true picture of the situation. It’s the questions and perspective of a coach that have greatly helped me find clarity. They have helped me turn a mirror (focused on myself and my problems) into a looking glass where I can see possibilities and a way forward.

    That’s what is so great about this blog, Michael. You help coach thousands of people through articles like this. You have helped me find answers to many tough issues. Thanks for being a guiding light with your clear writing and experience.

    • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

      John has said it best and I agree. Thanks, Michael!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, John. Your suggestion is terrific. My mentors have always asked me the best questions. They have also taught me how to ask better questions.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        It’s funny how a good coach can ask just the right question. I have had many “Ah-ha” moments this way!

        • Lisa Colon DeLay

          This reminds me, it need to schedule my next session of spiritual direction. The power is truly in the questions that make us think, and give us some perspective to incite change. word up.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I agree.  I continually keep a mentor in my life, as well as someone I can be a mentor to.  I believe both are important.

      • Tim Blankenship

        Great reminder of why discipleship is necessary.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          I agree!

  • http://mackrillmedia.com/ Jud Mackrill

    Seriously great read. This is perspective is relevant way beyond job searching. 

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Absolutely, Jud. I thought the same thing. Imagine how changing our thinking — and the questions we ask as a result — can change our relationships, family dynamics, ministry opportunities, educational pursuits, etc.?

  • http://bentheredothat.com Ben Patterson

    Tremendous! The questions you ask will give others insight to how you think.

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad P

    Excellent stuff Michael.  I have found that when I ask the wrong questions, I come up with wrong answers, and, worse, it leads to a very downward spiral in my thinking about myself, my colleagues or my family.  It just isn’t healthy.

    When I start down that path, I usually know it is time to get up and walk…to disrupt the thought processes a bit, so I can begin thinking clearly again.

    Thanks!

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      Getting out of the situation and going for a walk is a great idea. I know physical activity helps me when I begin to ask wrong questions.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        Definitely!  A change in scenery can help change my thinking as well.

        • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

          Going out into the woods helps me think, but unfortunately there are not a lot around here. My wife and I did just discover a state park fairly close by and I can see myself using that place for my change in scenery.

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            That’s easier over here. I have tons of trails close by. Some time spent in the woods or on the river is time well spent. 

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great idea, Thad. I’ve used walking myself at times, to redirect my thought process. I’ve also been known to talk to myself out loud: “No, don’t go there, Michele.” My family thinks I’m a lunatic, but it works. :)

  • http://emuelle1.blogspot.com/ Eric S. Mueller

    Great points. As an engineer, I deal with assumptions a lot.  When it comes to my personal thinking, I’m always trying to challenge my assumptions. I’ve even gotten to the point when I talk to other people, I can see the assumptions they’re making about the world around them. I haven’t quite learned how to diplomatically point that out though, so I usually keep my mouth shut.

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      I’m not sure there is a diplomatic way to point out faulty assumptions, particularly in a social setting. I think it takes a solid relationship to challenge assumptions in a productive way. Doing so with a mere acquaintance is normally a sure fire way to upset the apple cart and weaken the relationship…

      • http://emuelle1.blogspot.com/ Eric S. Mueller

        Exactly. I have a good friend who is my accountability partner. We have come to expect each other to point out faulty assumptions, and it’s helped us both tremendously over the years. I have other people who are close to me who are unwilling to respond when I try to point out bad assumptions. Sometimes it’s painful.

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com/ Eileen

    I just wrote this sentence yesterday.  Failure must compel us to look for alternatives.  And this must start by asking ourselves productive questions and not self-defeating questions.  The “what’s wrong with me question” is like a taking a baseball bat and beating yourself over the head.  It doesn’t help you move forward. 

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      Wonderful picture! Why would someone beat themselves over the head with a baseball bat?! Also why would someone ask these questions of themselves?! Great connection!

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      My head hurts…

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        Hahaha. Yup, massive headache over here too.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          :)

  • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

    A great book I’m reading on thinking is ‘Mindset’ by Standford professor Dr. Carol Dweck.  It discusses fixed and growth mindsets in terms of learning, leading, coaching, teaching, parenting and more.  Growth is what we’re after, which is behind your recommended questions. 

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Thanks for the book recommend, Joel!

      • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

        No prob! Finished Mindset last night. Everyone should read that book!

        • Tim Blankenship

          I love book recommendations. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000465707918 Carol Klein

      Thanks for book recommended. hope I can get it in S.Africa

  • http://www.ChristianFaithAtWork.com/ Chris Patton

    Another way to get the right questions asked is to have an accountability partner.

    We have had a lot of discussion on this blog about finding a mentor or coach.  For some, this is not easy.  However, just about any of us should be able to find a peer that is willing to join into an accountability relationship.  It is in that relationship that the tough questions can get asked.

    Our accountability partner should have a better perspective of our situation when looking in from the outside.  It is very likely they can help us get back to the right questions.

    If you have an accountability partner, pass this post on to them and discuss it at your next face-to-face.  It should provide great conversation…and likely improved effectiveness!

    Thanks once again for great material!

    • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad P

      Chris, you are right.  I need an accountability partner and have had them through the years.  They play the role of “truthteller”, and I certainly need that!

      • http://www.ChristianFaithAtWork.com/ Chris Patton

        Me, too! I am actually in between right now and I need to make the push to hook back up with one. I heard that loud and clear when I read this post.

    • http://www.suttonparks.com Sutton Parks

      For the month of January I have been speaking to an accountability partner everyday at 7:50 am. It is amazing how that 10 minute phone call motivates me to get thing done and what behaviors I change. If we stop At the end of the month I definitely need to find someone else. It is powerful! Great point Chris!

      • http://www.ChristianFaithAtWork.com/ Chris Patton

        That is awesome! What brought that on?

        • http://www.suttonparks.com Sutton Parks

          My friend asked me if I wanted to team up.  I just lucked into it and I am really benefitting from it, so is my friend.

          • http://www.ChristianFaithAtWork.com/ Chris Patton

            Wow, that is great! I am sure you want to continue that as long as you can. Even if you guys decide the daily talk is too much, I would encourage you to do it as often as makes sense. That is a great opportunity!

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        That’s impressive, Sutton. I’m inspired by how you’ve invited this level of accountability, but also how you’re daily sticking with it. Life changing!

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      That’s a great idea. It is easy for us to settle for commiseration…

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      When done correctly, accountability partners are a great help to us, and hopefully we are to them!

      • http://www.ChristianFaithAtWork.com/ Chris Patton

        Iron sharpening iron…

        • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

          Exactly.

  • http://www.transformingleader.org/ Wayne Hedlund

    Great post. I am so impressed and thankful for how often you write about positive thinking, changing the stories we tell ourselves, retraining ourselves to think different, etc. 

    The thought occurred to me while reading this post that one more strategy, whenever possible, is to ask not only a coach like John suggested (which is a great idea), but to also try to get feedback from those directly involved in whatever happened. That’s not always possible, but it can be very helpful when it does.

    Of course, that also requires a good dose of humility!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Good thought, Wayne. Occasionally I’ll ask my husband his take on a particular situation we both experienced. Quite often his perspective is far different than mine, mine usually being the more negative one. It’s been huge for helping me see how my thinking is sometimes skewed.

  • Alan Kay

    Marilee Goldberg said, ‘A powerful question changes all thinking and behaving afterwards’.

    Michael, I really appreciate this post – your emphasis on asking purposeful questions is so critical. When people are facing complexity or difficulty, talking about the problem they face will not help them move forward.

    • Rachel Lance

      Good point, Alan, and I would take it even a step further and say (over) thinking the problem will not help make progress. It’s so easy to get sucked into analysis paralysis when evaluating a situation. Better to challenge yourself with the right questions and keep moving forward. 

  • Karen

    This is great Michael, so relevant and timely. I’m in the same situation as your friend and I wonder, why is it that our natural inclination is to ask the ‘bad’ questions? Interesting, isn’t it? 

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      I find that I am asking “bad” questions when I am trying to avoid taking responsibility for my situation. It is easy to point the finger or to play the victim. If I believe it is someone else’s fault or it is out of my control, there is nothing I can do…

      Not a very good place to be when asking questions about how I can improve my circumstances.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Derek-Johnson/100002228041272 Derek Johnson

      I have wondered that too.  I have been in a situation of looking for work for first time in my life and not finding any.  It is easy to default to negative thinking.

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    This reminds me of a saying I heard years ago, “Seek first to understand…” I think it was in the context of asking questions to understand the situation, person, etc. before making sure you are understood. When we seek understanding, we get a better gauge on a situation and know better how to communicate with others. I’m not very good at this, and this post was a reminder to me to refocus on understanding before having to be understood.

  • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

    Great post per norm, @mhyatt:disqus !  My favorite line =>> “These are constructive questions. They empower and create new possibilities. They lead to action. And they will produce results.”  Reframing our questions is so powerful!

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      That was my favorite line too! So often we ask questions like we are a victim. It makes us powerless.

  • Lisa Colon DeLay

    PLUS…power posing. He could power pose.

    (I’m all over that now. Soon, I’ll need to fetch my cape from storage.)

  • http://avajae.blogspot.com Ava Jae

    If you want to change the results you are getting, you must change your thinking.

     I love this line because it’s so incredibly true. The first step to changing the things around you is changing your perspective. If our thinking is the same, how can we expect other things to change?

  • http://henryfiallo.wordpress.com/ Enrique Fiallo

    I agree that to change an outcome, you must first start with the thought. Thoughts lead to beliefs, which lead to behavior (actions) which lead to outcomes. Enough of certain behaviors, and they become habits, which then become part of your character, and then your character becomes your legacy. As you say, Michael, it doesn’t have to be that way. Change the thought, and it all flows from there. You said, “empower and create new possibilities” which is what we do when we change our thoughts. Really great post!

  • http://twitter.com/CoachTheresaIF Theresa Ip Froehlich

    A very powerful post, and perhaps a life-changing one for many.

    As a Life Coach, I am constantly asking my clients questions that will create new insights and generate creative solutions. I understand what you mean by “bad questions.” Bad questions are driven by a victim-mentality which assumes that the questioner is powerless to change things.

    I am always excited when my clients discover new insights, connecting dots in ways they’ve never done before. As a result, they find hope.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Theresa Froehlich
    http://www.transitionslifecoaching.org

  • Rob Sorbo

    I first learned about asking the right questions when I learned how to do databases. I would tell my boss that I couldn’t find the information he was looking for, but he helped me see that I wasn’t asking (or querying) the question in the right way. As I’ve gotten deeper into data management, I’ve learned that taking time to figure out HOW to ask the question is more valuable than just stabbing at it.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Rob, that is a great analogy.

  • http://www.cheriblogs.info Cheri Gregory

    “Questions are powerful tools. They can ignite hope and lead to new insights. They can also destroy hope and keep us struck in bad assumptions.”

    Thank you for this powerful reminder, Michael.

    Before Christmas, I was avoiding visiting my mother, who is declining rapidly from Alzheimer’s. Each time I asked myself “What’s wrong with you?” I came up with the same negative answers: I’m a bad daughter. I lack compassion. 

    A friend helped me shift the question to, “What’s holding you back?” The answer came quickly: I don’t know what to DO. 

    Sounds simple enough, but it produced a profound shift in how I approached myself and my mother. With compassion for myself, I realized I hadn’t been avoiding my mother; I was bewildered by all the rapid changes in our family’s rules and roles. I was avoiding the uncertainty and ineptitude that come with rapid change.

    Recognizing that I’m a novice at this, I quit thinking that if I really loved my mother I’d automatically know what to do and, instead, started asking, “What can I do?”

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      What a powerful example! Thank you for sharing Cheri.

  • Bonnie Clark

    Seth Godin had posted this question on his blog a while ago, and it still really makes me think:

    Which of the four are getting in your way?
    You don’t know what to do,
    You don’t know how to do it,
    You don’t have the authority or resources to do it,You’re afraid.

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      Those are definitely some great places to start.

    • http://www.cheriblogs.info Cheri Gregory

      Thanks, Bonnie! I’ve printed these and put them up above my computer. I’m willing to bet my students will find them helpful, too!

  • http://www.dompfeiffer.com/ Dominique Pfeiffer

    Thank you for this great post. And thank you for the possibility to learn from you. I believe that asking the right questions should be taught at home, at school and during professional training. It is the main key not only for our own minds but for supporting other people as well as making the most of our lifes as a community.

    Maybe politicians should not be selected by the promises they give but by the questions they ask. Just wondering.

    I wish the content of your blog would be available in German as well. I know of many people who would benefit from your content but are not able to read and comprehend English well enough.

    Again, thank you for sharing your insights and, more importantly, for prompting the right questions!

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Dominique … I’ll pass the German suggestion on to Michael. Thanks for the note!

  • Lissa

    Excellent! Thanks!

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Lissa … What did you like best about the post?

  • http://www.suttonparks.com Sutton Parks

    When I was living in my car I heard Father Gordon talk about being grateful for everything, even seemingly bad things. Before I went to bed that night I asked myself what do I have to be grateful for? I came up with: a safe place to park my car, a roof over my head (even though it was a sunroof), running water (I had to run across the truck stop parking lot to get it, but so what), the Rec center where I can shower for $3, the roads to get there, etc. That concept changed my life. Now I have a real roof over my head!

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      WIN. Great story, Sutton!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Way to go Sutton! You definitely took a bad situation and saw the light.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      Great story!

  • http://twitter.com/kathrynmbj Kathryn B Johnson

    Take the ‘no’ out of can’t (cannot).  I can.  I was in the same situation, and waited for a job from late 2007 until late August of 2009.  I temped because it was all I could do while sending hundreds of applications.  I ended up taking a part-time job without benefits because I hadn’t found a job in my field.  I loved the part-time job so much, I stayed. I worked with people with challenges and disabilities and it was very fulfilling after a long stint of work in the Information Technology field.  As you can imagine, the pay was very different as well.  You can turn your thinking around.  For every negative, there is a positive, and for every negative thought, by choosing to make it a positive, you’ll gain more insight to who you are, and what you want, and need.  Everyone will not agree, but in a time where hundreds, or thousands may have their eye on the same jobs as yourself, you have to stay positive, or you will fall through the cracks.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Kathryn … I hear your struggles! Judging by your comment, it sounds like you now have a job. Is that correct?

      If not, have you ever considered starting a small side business? Leveraging a hobby into something that can bring in a few extra dollars per month?

      I know plenty of people who have transitioned into a job they love by doing just that. Hope it all goes well!

  • Jack Lynady

    Great read michael. Asking the right questions is HUGE. And a lost art in this “comment” driven culture. Thx for asking. :)

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Jack … Do you have any questions you’re asking yourself right now?

      • Jack Lynady

        No, but here are a few I asked God this a.m., “what’s up for today? Is there someone I should call? Is there someone I should be praying for? Is there anything I am pursuing that I should let go of? Is there something or someone I should pursue? Is there anything you want to speak to me?”

  • http://tea4kate.com/ Kathryn Barker

    Great post! Thanks…..I always love being challenged to think while sipping my morning tea!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SFMIDYNKGRZ34LEXRYTS6ENUOU DavidK

    Great blog post Michael.  It reminds me of the old Lou Tice Seminar where he discusses self talk and the term reticular activating system. RAS refers to the brains function of moving tword what you are thinking. This blog is one of the best you have ever written.

    Dave Kempf

  • http://www.wonderwomanimnot.com/ Elizabeth Hill

    In a situation like a job loss I think the negativity and self doubt come naturally.  I’ve done a lot of interviewing this year for new employees and it was interesting to see the different approaches to the interviews the candidates took.  Some of the candidates had been looking for work for quite a while and their desperation came through.  If I could add anything to the post it would be to ask yourself if you are really applying for the right position.  Selling skills you don’t possess for a position that really isn’t your forte typically leads to a job that you don’t excel at,  creating that vicious circle of self doubt and negativity. 

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Thank you for sharing your viewpoint as an interviewer. I wonder how many of those that come across as desperate realize it.

      • http://www.wonderwomanimnot.com/ Elizabeth Hill

        I’m sure they didn’t realize how desperate they were but it definitely affected how they were perceived, not just by me but the other interviewers as well.  The issue I’ve noticed is two-fold.  The first is that they come across as too pushy.  Confidence is good in an interview but trying to control the interview or being contentious is not.  The second is that sometimes you feel like they are saying answers they think you want to hear, not what is factual.  Once I feel like a candidate isn’t being themselves or true to who they are I typically don’t consider them for the role because at that point I don’t know who is going to show up for the job.

  • http://mauricefoverholt.wordpress.com/ Maurice Overholt

    Thanks for the reminder!  I have done a lot of job searching and these are some great insights.  Your thoughts also remind me to remain grateful for what I have and who I am, regardless what that is.

    • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

      That is a reminder we could all use!

  • Gaylene

    Way to stop one’s “stinkin’ thinkin'” is to heed Philippians 4:8 ” Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is
    right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if
    anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (NIV). One needs to be intentional about doing this. It helps to be intentional about what I read, what I listen to, and what I watch.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      “Stinkin’ thinkin'” — love that! As for Phil. 4:8, I’ve written that one down on a note card, a ready reminder of where my thoughts should dwell.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Gaylene,
      “Stinkin-Thinkin” Yeah, love it and totally gonna use it!

  • http://talesofwork.com kimanzi constable

    I always ask myself “why”. This helps me focus more clearly on what I’m doing.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Kimanzi, for me, Why questions brings self doubt rather than action. What type of Why questions do you ask?

      • http://talesofwork.com kimanzi constable

        I find that when I focus on the what or how is when it can seem overwhelming and I get discouraged and give up, why helps me see the bigger picture and to act. For example, if I want to build a tree house for my kids, I could be all pumped about it but when I look at the plans and time, I might get frustrated, and just want to give up. When I look at why I’m building it (the enjoyment the kids will get, the memories they’ll have in it, them helping me build it) it motivates me to finish, it helps me focus on what it’s all about and not look at how hard it will be.

        I ask: why do I want to blog? To help people find fulfulling work that means something. Why do I have devotions every morning? To fellowship with my Lord, to arm my self with scripture I can use against the devil’s darts throughout the day. For me it’s all about the why!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Michael. Romans 12:2 always comes through for me when faced with having to get my mind right – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
    At http://searchandtrace.wordpress.com we source and supply Christian literature for free as a service to help people get access to all the quality writings that do exist on the Internet.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Search and Trace,
      Romans 12:1-2 are my all time favorite pieces of scripture! Love it!

  • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

    This is great. There are way too many times I know I have not been intentional about my thinking. I don’t “take every thought captive.” Better questions could lead to greater opportunities. It is actually a very exciting thought! It’s also great to know that God is in the “changing your thoughts” business. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” So with us being conscious about changing our thoughts and God working to transform our minds, we can put one in the win column. 

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      Great thoughts, Brandon.  You’ve read my mind.  I strive to think intentionally but fail all too often, as well.

      • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

        When I fail I think of ways to think intentionally. It seems like a never ending cycle.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          But one we must continually strive to complete.

    • Rachel Lance

      Thanks for the interesting comment, Brandon. It is always encouraging to remember that God is all about life transformation. I love the connection you made about our intentional efforts combining with God’s grace-filled efforts. It’s very easy to slip into thinking I’m in this alone.

      • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

        It is something I have to constantly remind myself.

  • Lamar Pierce

    Not just a good article with good information, but very timely as well.  Thanks for sharing.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Lamar,
      I have found that Michael has this uncanny ability to be timely. There have been several instances where I will be thinking about a topic or idea and BAM there it is, in blog form, a few days later!

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    Love it Michael!

    The way we phrase our questions skews the answers we will see. We can see problems or solutions to our issues. All by tweaking what we say.

    This post goes well with your post How a shift in your vocabulary can instantly change your attitude – http://michaelhyatt.com/how-a-shift-in-your-vocabulary-can-instantly-change-your-attitude.html

    I think I need to change the questions I’ve been asking about my blog. Traffic took a nosedive this past week and I’ve been wondering “Why did this happen?” or “Why don’t my readers like me?” when I need to ask  “What can I do to get traffic to increase again?” or “What content can I bring to the table that will make my readers interested again?”

    Questions to prompt action rather than self doubt.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Much better questions, Joe! Thanks.

    • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

      Yes, Joe. The latter are better than the former. I continually ask these as well for my own blog.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I ask myself the same questions too.  Both the negative side and the positive side.  The problem comes in finding the time to fix it, sometimes.

  • Anonymous

    Michael – great perspective on re-framing what is often just self-defeating thinking.  I know you are a big believer in mastermind-accountability-brainstorming-mentoring groups as I am.  Without that in place it leaves a big gap for anyone going through change.  We need the eyes and ears of people whom we know, love and trust to help adjust our perceptions at times like this.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Dan,
      I am with you! Having people along the journey who can guide you along the path of life is truly a gift!

  • http://kathink.blogspot.com/ Kathleen Jaeger

    I agree with this. I often tell my children to ask a better question. Thanks for articulating so well what I mean by this.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Kathleen,
      Such a good exercise for kids. Thanks for your input!

  • http://twitter.com/TSchramme Tina Schramme

    Excellent advice for kids as well as adults. My 14 year old daughter who is talented, bright and excels in almost everything, has one area where she continually doubts herself. Every time she gets knocked back, she asks the wrong questions! I am going to share this with her! Thanks!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’ve heard my 14 year old do the same. Unfortunately, I think he learned it from me! I’m looking forward to working on it together.

  • http://growwithstacy.com Stacy

    This is so true! I recently discovered afformations (not affirmations) and they are powerful. Instead of asking the negative questions you ask the opposite questions: Why am I so successful? Why do people want to hire me? Why do I have so much to offer? My mind has come up with some fantastic answers to the afformations I’ve been using for myself. I really think that afformations are questions that make our minds work like God designed us to!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is a really excellent suggestion. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/DrSusanBiali Dr.Susan Biali, MD

    I absolutely love this Michael, thank you. I’m a medical doctor who’s a life coach and passionate about positive psychology (I write for Psychology Today), I’m always focusing on helping patients and clients reframe things in a positive way that moves them forward. Until I read this I hadn’t realized so clearly that the questions themselves can pose a problem – and that certain questions are best not being asked or answered. A brilliant coach recently introduced me to your blog and I am so glad to have found it. Bless you for the inspiration and great information!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Susan. I love the fact that you an MD and a life coach. You are uniquely equipped to help people!

      • http://www.susanbiali.com/ Dr. Susan Biali, M.D.

        Hi Michael! I do feel really blessed by these skills I’ve been given, my work is my ministry and gives me such deep joy.  I’m excited about learning from you how to expand my reach and help more and more people. Thanks to your post from yesterday I’ve already ramped up my own blog (and am commenting on other blogs, as you can see!)

  • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris Jeub

    I’m a debate coach of national champions, and one thing I’ve said for years is that rounds are often won or lost in cross-examination, the time allotted to debaters to ask/answer questions. Champion debaters are trained to ask just the right question to gain just the right admission in the round. 

    Asking the right questions in life, likewise, can make you a winner or a loser. 

    Wow, deep thought, Michael.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      What a unique and powerful perspective, Chris. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.betterhealthtoday.co Kay Wilson

    Ahhh, Michael, this is excellent for New people searching the job markets.  Fresh out of school with their degrees and no experience can be discouraging and this post of new questions will really help them take a fresh look at themselves.  Thank you so much, I have a grandson who is going through this now!

  • Susan McHugh

    Where ever I go, there I am.  
    I may not be able to see myself objectively whether it’s strengths or areas that I could improve.  What are my words, writings, demeanor, wardrobe, and how I spend my time telling the world who I am?  Communication is much more than words!  This is where a coach, pastor, spouse, long-time friend, counselor, or adult children can come in handy.Great post!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I struggle with seeing myself objectively as well. If you figure out the secret, let me know.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Me too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/eversmiling Kingsley Izuka Uchunor

    What a timely piece there!

    Just recently I was asking myself this same question: why don’t I ask important questions, sometimes when dealing with people, discussing issues etc? Somehow I felt, maybe, I didn’t understand the subject.

    However, this is not the case when the issue is personal, like described in the post.

    This will really go a long way!

    Thanks

    • Jim Martin

      Kingsley, many of us would do well to do as you have done in reflecting on the questions you ask.  As I read the post, I began reflecting on the questions I ask myself, my wife and my children.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jane-Babich/100002993676826 Jane Babich

    The concept of retraining our thinking to ask the right question FIRST, does make a real change in the outcome.  This is the second time in 30 days that I have been presented with this concept and have been using it as it relates to “taking the time” to live healthy.  My questions are now… What do I need to change to make exeercise a part of my daily life? It use to be, Why can’t I find the time to exercise?  How can I make healtier food choices? Instead of, Will I ever stop eating what I do not want to eat?…. Thank you for the reinforcement of this mind change. It is new to me, but I am using it!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Asking, “Why can’t I find the time,” can still illicit a negative response that doesn’t help you solve the problem. Take the next step. Ask yourself where you will fit it in and what you have to move.

  • Carol Lawrence

    I love everything that you said.  I know this post isn’t about job search, but about communication.  However, as an experienced career coach, I just feel prompted to write something totally different.  I think career search in this market can be extremely stressful.   It may very well be the questions that need to be evaluated during this career search debrief, or it might be some other things.  

    Are these appropriate positions for this candidate?  When looking at these metrics, I would say this person’s resume is getting interviews, so that’s good to go.  I think it might be time to get coaching specifically on interview answers.  A mentor can help, but someone  good at interviewing might be better.  In this market, you can have 19 great interview responses and one clunker that pulls you out.  It might be that competitive.In this market, it’s a challenge to know if its the candidate or the company that is making the “match” difficult.  There is just a lot more stress during times of economic uncertainty.  I don’t make this offer regularly, but if you need an experienced consultant to talk with your friend, I would be happy to do that probono.  I do have experience, and am happy to offer a resume if it is helpful.  If you’d like to take me up on that offer, just email me.  Great post though, Michael.  Good stuff.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Carol,
      Thanks for the wise words and kind offer! It’s stuff like this that make Michael’s community so great!

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    This was a great post today!  I agree, a shift in attitude can bring about a shift in perspective.  Thanks for sharing!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Agreed. How we view the world has much to do with how we act in it.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        Or… lack of action as well.

  • http://www.liveandlovework.com Chrysta Bairre

    I love the idea of asking intentional questions!

    I had not previously noticed that questions related to asking why we aren’t getting what we want or expect to have involve our own bias and assumptions. Whenever we approach life on the basis of our own assumptions we are likely to find more struggle than achievement.

    Suggesting questions based on solutions instead of assumptions is a great strategy to find solutions and approach life’s challenges with a positive attitude.

     I’m going to add this tool to my toolbox for living a great life! Thank you for the inspiration!

    I’m really looking forward to seeing Michael Hyatt speak at BlissDom 2012!

    Chrysta

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great summary, Chrysta!

  • Jim Mann

    I recently had an opportunity to coach my teenage son in this regard. He struggles with asking the wrong questions. We had hired him to paint a room in the basement and he had accidently knocked over his paint bucket on the carpet.

     As he and I were cleaning up the mess he made statements such as ‘I don’t know why I should ever try to do stuff like this?” I told him, “Actually, I believe you are very good at this sort of thing and so do a lot of other people such as your Industrial Education teachers at school. I understand your frustration but try to consider this as an opportunity to learn. Ask yourself, what could I do differently next time that would give better results.”

    I told him that I have made lots of preventable mistakes in my many years of DYI home renos and have learned from them. When we were almost finished cleaning the paint from the carpet, I picked up a drywall mud pan containing some of the spilled paint I had scraped off the carpet. The drywall mud knife I had used to scrape up the paint flipped out, splattering paint back on the carpet at my feet. My son said, “See, even you are having problems.”

    Rather than get upset at myself, I said, “As I was picking up the drywall pan, I thought to myself, this is not a good idea, but before I could do anything the drywall mud knife flipped out of the pan. I have just learned another lesson in what NOT to do.”

    I asked a few more questions about what we could do differently in this situation and then left him to carry on. When I came back later I could see the evidence that he had made some changes in his methods, the first coat of paint was complete and his attitude was more positive.

    It just took a change of questions to change the outcome and the attitude.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Fun Story, Jim.

    • Rachel Lance

      What a blessed son, to have a potential catastrophe turned into an incredibly valuable teaching time. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Jim,
      Having worked with teens for the last 16 years of my life let me tell you that using opportunities like this to re frame the, at times, fragile teenage ego will pay off for you and him (relationally speaking) for years and years to come. Great story!

  • Anonymous

    Wow did I just have this conversation with myself this morning?  After wrestling with God in prayer… I began to write – addressing the “right questions” not until then did I find clarity and new LIFE.  I knew this because I found peace with myself and God and most importantly, the answers I was really looking for in my frustration.  In summary, my dilemma was with my leadership team of 3 and being discouraged and frustrated with them from their lack of follow through in the responsibilities they’ve been given.  In large part the problems were due to poor time management, distractions and fear or lack of commitment to the service – as a result costing the ministry in significant ways.  While I’m aware my options for good leaders are slim- they are the ones acknowledging a desire to serve (and I believe with all good intentions).  In my frustrations this morning my questions almost made me want to throw in the towel.  Then later (prayer) I realized I needed to address these issues in a more direct way (my fear/my challenge) and that while I may consider them leaders their short comings reflect their very purpose for being a part of my discipleship ministry so, the questions became – how do I utilize them to lead in ways that will not cost me (as much)? What options/alternatives are there to replace the need where they lack?  The answers began to flow like a river.  Thank you Michael!  Your words are confirming.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      I like that you added questions that focused on what you can do about the situation.  Those are almost always effective questions!

  • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

    The different questions lead to different responses. One is purely reactive and accomplishes nothing. The other is proactive and helps find solutions. The key is the discipline to stop and consider these things. Thanks, Michael.

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  • http://jonstolpe.wordpress.com Jon Stolpe

    As a former project manager and as one who now managers project managers, my favorite question is “How could I do this better next time?”.  I often asked this of my project team, and I encourage my team members to ask this of their project teams.

    We can learn so much by getting feedback from others.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      That’s a very effective question, Jon.   Making changes based on those answers is really important, too.  

      • http://jonstolpe.wordpress.com Jon Stolpe

        Of course!  Adjusting for the future is important.

  • Anonymous

    Given our rapidly shifting circumstances and chronic uncertainty today, asking the right questions is critical not only for personal development but for the building of resilience as a community. Asking the wrong questions leads to stagnation and despair. Asking the right questions leads to vibrancy and confidence. Thanks for the reminder Michael!
    http://www.jeffvankooten.com

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      True, Jeff!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great insight as always, Jeff.

  • Cathy Zavitz

    I can’t believe how timely this posting is for me.  I’ve just been rejected for two jobs in two days that I had interviewed for and I’ve asked myself all those “wrong” questions in the last few days.   I am printing out this blog posting just so I can keep it close by while I go through searching for full-time employment.

    • Jim Martin

      Cathy, thanks for this comment in which you communicated just how relevant this post is to your job search.  I wish you the very best as you search for employment.

  • Edwina Cowgill

    Excellent post and a great reminder for the first of the year – change our thinking to get new and better results. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, ask the right questions of ourselves and we will develop new, creative solutions.

    • Rachel Lance

      It is a timely post for this season of recalibration and setting courses straight again, isn’t it?!

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com/ Patricia Zell

    Did you notice that all of your questions can be stated (as two of them already are) or restated with the wording, “How can I…”? I think questions focused on what we can do are bent more towards succeeding than towards whining. I also think the “How can I…” questions should asked at the beginning of an endeavor, during the process of working it out, and after its completion. Life is not static, so we would do well to be dynamic in our approach to living life (and all of its endeavors) to the fullest extent.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Your comments reminded me of a lesson my dad taught me. One day, while he tried to teach me to hammer a nail to no avail, I cried, “I can’t do it!” Unwilling to let me quit, he looked me square and said with absolute confidence, “Oh, yes you can!” I may have been only 5 or 6 at the time, but it was a demarcation point in my life. Both “I can” and “I can’t” hold tremendous power.

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

        Good story. How long did it take to hammer that nail?

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

          Way toooooo long. But I did it. :)

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      The word “can” empowers, whether I ask a question, how can …?, or make a statement, I can….

  • http://twitter.com/nitoygonzales nitoy gonzales

    love the article.super thanks.i think ill share this with our young people and young stewards fellowship…God bless you mike!

  • Anonymous

    Michael,  This is great advice.  It is thinking like this that drew me to following you.  Life is too negative as it is, so you have to be intentional about the things we allow into our mind, including our own thoughts.

    • Jim Martin

      Ron, great point.  That is a great reason alone to watch how we are framing our questions.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I couldn’t agree more. Thanks so much for commenting.

  • http://necessarymiscellany.wordpress.com/ John Herndon

    I’ve found that my wife and I are better at catching this sort of thing in the other person. 

    Our standard response when we hear the other one ask a wrong question (or express negativity in some other way) is “That’s despair, and it’s a lie”. It’s become a little like a joke, but it’s very helpful to have someone help to spot these wrong questions. 

    • Jim Martin

      John, how wonderful that you each can help one another with this.  Sometimes we don’t see in ourselves what has become a habit.

  • Loren Bruce

    Mike, thanks for the blog.  I needed the reminder.  You are right on track.  Gratefully, Loren

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Loren,
      thanks for leaving a comment and being a part of the community!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      We miss you already, Loren. Hope you can come back soon. Keep juicing!

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  • Soumangue Basse

    The author Noah St. John of The Secret Code of Success talked about how important it is to ask ourselves empowering questions daily.  He called them AFFORMATIONS.  I’ve been using Afformations for over a year and it has helped me tremendously.  

  • http://twitter.com/kirkweisler Kirk Weisler

    yes another amazing and actionable post by Team Hyatt.  THANKS MIKE.  The most wonderful and helpful book on this exact principle has to be QBQ by John Miller.  The Question Behind the Question…. taking ownership for your results and your life by asking the right question.  READ It, LEARN It, LIVE It, LOVE It

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      Kirk, thanks for steering us toward another, more extended resource on changing our thought patterns.

  • http://www.davidjlilly.com/ David Lilly

    By asking different questions I will give myself the opportunity to find different answers, thus step out of old habits and begin to see things in a different light.  This will enable me to move forward with a different view of what in front of me.

    I’m very lucky because my partner (Krish Surroy) always knows how to help me do just this. Thanks to him I have learned to stop and think before heading down the same path again and again.  I don’t always do it but I’m getting better at it all the time.

  • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

    The quality of you life is determined by the quality of questions you ask.  We all can learn to ask better questions.

  • Christine Pietryla

    Michael, such a great post! I think it’s easy to fall into these internal dialogue traps and awareness is the first step to shutting them down. 

  • Tim Blankenship

    Agreed! It’s so difficult to see objectively when you are involved emotionally. Asking better questions is another way to put away some of the emotion to get a better look at what is actually going on.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    It is a matter of perspective Mike! Better questions always take us in the right direction rather than getting sidetracked in the midcourse. Also, better question helps us maintain an atmosphere of positivity in spite of all unfortunate things happening around us.

  • http://tangoleadership.wordpress.com/ PoulAndreassen

    There are certain
    things you do not realize until you read them, and through your article I have
    come to realize those few but interesting and effective I like Become conscious,
    Be intentional” If you want to change the results you are
    getting, you must change your thinking.”Which is the fact.

    Thanks once again!!

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    In my most recent post, “What Does The Bible Say About Wearing Red Shirts?”, I touch on the red-shirt syndrome (Star Trek fans recognize this from the original show) which deals with how we view ourselves and others. Thanks for offering some specific steps in rethinking who we are and what we do.

    http://tnealtarver.com/2012/01/20/what-does-the-bible-say-about-wearing-red-shirts/

  • Justin Foster

    Certainly a great post on a relevant topic as many people are battling a scarce job market. The questions we pose to ourselves goes beyond interviews as we all know. So much richness to digest in this one from questions to deeply held beliefs about ourselves to self-regulating our thoughts to be more effective, productive and optimistic. These are some of the things I teach to my clients among others to enhance performance in there chosen arena. Developing awareness of our thoughts, reactions and emotional changes can tell us a lot about how we are coping and performing in a situation. I encourage people to identify their counterproductive thoughts (or questions), pause and shift gears if the results (stress, emotions, actions) arent up to par (ie. “be intentional”). Practicing to proficiency at this process can change your behavior, your leadership, your relationships and even your health. Take control and remember that Jesus loves you. That always helps me. – Sorry for the length, it’s my first time.

  • Roshan rangari

    Excellent Article and very Motivational too. True such articles has the power to change human thinking. Thanks You Michael Hyatt!!

  • Jhaynam

    Very interesting. But why not just start your own company? These people did http://www.entrepreneur-stories.com

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  • Stephanie

    All the things that I’ve spent so much time believing were not possible!

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  • http://twitter.com/PediatricInc Brandon Betancourt

    When bad things happen and I want to ask myself “why does this happen to me?” I try to turn it around and ask the question differently. For example, I’ll ask, “why not me?”

    Framing the question differently helps me understand that I’m not so special as to be exempt from problems, bad circumstances or bad luck.  Thus, like a game of poker, where one doesn’t get to dictate what cards one will get, I have to find the best way to play my hand. 

    Now, I’m not suggesting I always have it under control. I get mad and frustrated all the time. But by turning it around, it makes me see things differently. 

  • Bob Tiede

    In his book “QBQ–the Question behind the Question” John Miller suggests three simple guidelines for
    creating better questions:
    1.      1.  Begin with
    “What” or “How” (not “Why,” “When,” or “Who”).

    2.      2.  Contain an “I”
    (not “they,” “them,” “we,” or “you”).

    3.      3.  Focus on action.

    • http://twitter.com/QBQGuy John G. Miller

      Bob, thanks so much for chiming in about the QBQ! book! Honored! Good to have QBQ! believers out there. Hope all is well in Texas!

  • Bob Tiede

    “You
    can tell whether a man is clever by his answers.  You can tell whether a man is wise by his
    questions.”

      Naguib Mahfouz

  • http://twitter.com/QBQGuy John G. Miller

    Michael, allow me to humbly recommend a book that covers this concept that you posted so well about: QBQ! The Question Behind the Question. It’s all about personal accountability, ownership – and asking better questions of ourselves. And yes, I wrote it. :-)

  • http://bluecapra.com/ Alan Reeves

    Great post.  At times, I think we all get caught up in negative thinking and tend to focus on what is not productive.  Answering the right questions is really the key to change our perspective.  When faced with a problem, I try to use a technique called Brainsteering (there is a book by the same name) which focus effort by asking specific questions.  Realizing how important the questions are to the answer is very eye opening.  Thanks

  • http://www.leadershipconnexion.com/ Stephan De Villiers

    In “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale, one of the most memorable lessons he teaches is that: “It is not the facts that matter, it is your attitude towards the facts that matter”.  The same is true about your post: “It is not the questions that you ask, but the outcome the questions generate that is important.”
    Thought provoking post. Thank you.

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  • Jan

    I found this post very helpful. I sometimes find myself asking similar questions and realized that the way I answer them has to change…into a more positive note.

  • Rashaan Mateen

    I always go back in forth with these types of questions. The questions I ask depend on my mood. Which needs to be consistently good questions to keep the mood positive. Love this blog

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  • piggy

    I could be a millionaire. :-)

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