Life is filled with complexity. Are you asking the right questions to solve your problems and to get where you want to go?
In every situation, the person who asks the questions is in complete control of the conversation. You can get wrong answers from negative questions. You can get wrong answers from positive questions. But you can’t get right answers from the wrong questions. And even when we do get the right answers, they are not always the solution.
Reasons vs. Excuses
Right answers are critical, but right answers don’t necessarily solve the problem. The answer “Don’t drink and drive” is right, yet many people still drive drunk. Which means the better and right question is: “Why must you drive right now?” followed by, “Is there another form of transportation?” This produces a better answer: “Because I haven’t been drinking, I will help you get to where you are going safely.”
Questions beginning with “why” and “who” are more emotionally charged than “what” or “how” questions because “why” and “who” questions are historical in nature. They take us back in time. “Why did this happen? Why must you drive drunk now? Who screwed up?” These questions plead for reasons, but they breed excuses. We all despise excuses and get annoyed when others use them on us, but the fault is usually with the one asking the questions. When we ask a “why or who” question, they are simply answering the question we asked.
Instead of asking people to live in the past, we should ask future-oriented questions like, “How can we fix this?” or “What can we do right now to stop the decline and turn this around?” Notice that these inquiries invite people to live in the present, encouraging positive statements about how things can be done better in the future. Notice that these questions are not about how to be a different person but about how to become more of who and what we already are.
Although the past is sometimes a wonderful place to visit, it is a debilitating place to live. Living in the past dilutes our energy, makes us fatigued and unable to stay productive at work, triggers regret, and often leads to chronic stress, depression, and anger—which, in reality, is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Absurd!
Always Somewhere Else
Driving forward while staring into the rearview mirror is unsafe, irresponsible, and distracts us from focusing on the present road conditions and the direction in which we are heading. So why should we live our lives this way and diminish from the here and now?
Living in the future is equally debilitating because it triggers anxiety, fear, and worse—the ambiguous “must-be-better-than-now” mindset. I am as guilty of this as anyone. There was a time in my life where my sole purpose was to be somewhere else. In the 7th grade, I remember thinking, “When I’m finally a 9th grader, I will be somebody!” Then, as a senior in high school, I thought, “I can’t wait to get out of here. Then I’ll focus on school.” It continued with, “When I graduate and get my dream job, I’ll finally feel good about myself,” and “If I could just get married then I’d finally be happy and feel complete.”
No! If we are not happy single, then we will never be happy married. If we are not the best 7th-grader we can be, we might not even make it to the 8th and 9th grade!
Living in the Present
French philosopher Pascal said, “Too many live their lives hoping to be happy, but because they only hope, they never really are.” They are waiting for someone to ask them to the prom and haven’t even taken the time to learn how to dance!
When we live for the future, we build grand expectations. We put years of happiness on a single moment, and in doing so, we set ourselves up for inevitable disappointment.
Bottom line. Living in the past is ridiculous because there is nothing that we can do to change it. And our future depends on what we do in the present. So, the key question, which is always the right question is: Where are you right now? It’s like ordering an Uber ride that requires you to enter in your current location. If you lie about where you are, the directions won’t work!
The present is called the present because it’s a precious gift that we cannot afford to waste! Today, you have never been this old before. And today, you will never be this young again. So, right now matters, and every “right now” matters.
The power to become is found in living where you are—right now—and asking the right questions so you can live in the present time. Keep on keeping on, because in two more days, tomorrow will be yesterday!
Dan Clark is a Hall of Fame speaker and the New York Times best-selling author of The Art of Significance: Achieving the Level Beyond Success.
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