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Home » Wellbeing

Asking yourself the right questions

Submitted by on May 28, 2012 – 1:28 pm

By Dr Sarb Johal

Think of using questions as you use a good search engine – the right keywords get you to the result you want. You still have to be discriminating with the information you get, but if you can master the skill of knowing how to phrase your request then you’re better placed to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

You live in an age of unprecedented availability of information. Not all of the information that’s available to you is good, honest, valid or useful, yet it’s sometimes hard to distinguish what’s beneficial from what’s pretty useless. You need good questioning skills to tell the difference. That goes for asking questions of yourself too. So how do you know what questions you should be asking yourself? And when?

Reflective questions are probing, clarifying questions that are great at getting to the heart of an issue that you might be wrestling with. They encourage you to reflect inwardly, and consider possibilities in a particular way. Light bulb moments can follow a tightly phrased reflective question and thinking about its context. Here are a few:

  • What will make me most comfortable with this situation (or action, or decision)? Subtext – remember your unique preferences and strengths
  • What stops me from taking decisive action? Subtext – what tightly held beliefs may be holding me back right now? Get in touch with these, and you may be able to start challenging whether these hard and fast rules are working for you right now
  • What would achieving this goal give me? Subtext – what is the link between this goal and what you truly value in life?
  • What’s great about the option I’m mulling over? Subtext – switches your mind into a positive frame when chewing over the solutions you’ve come up with
  • How will I know when I’ve reached my goal? Subtext – keeps your focus on positive actions, results and milestones along the way.

Pre-supposing questions are also probing or even hypothetical questions. They can help you overcome a self-limiting thought or belief, and show you what can be achieved if you imagine what lies beyond. They say, “Just put aside your reservations for a moment and see what the world could look like.”

If I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I do next?

If I could play my perfect game, what would that look and feel like?

Dream freely, and think big.

Dr Sarb Johal is the Director of Equanimity Limited and Associate Professor of Disaster Mental Health at Massey University’s Joint Centre for Disaster Research. He spends quite a lot of his work time providing advice to the Ministry of Social Development and CERA on aspects of recovery from the Canterbury earthquakes. When not working, Sarb spends a bit of his time writing and running, though not at the same time. He has completed numerous half-marathons, 4 international marathons and 1 ultra-marathon from 2010-2012. He is a certified Leader in Running Fitness, and is also training to be a Personal Trainer. 

You can read more of his thoughts on health, wellbeing and mental fitness at

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