A friend of mine is going through a time of uncertainty right now. She has sent her teenage son to a semester at a wilderness training camp in Montana in an attempt to teach him self-awareness, values and discipline.
She came to the conclusion that this was the best, perhaps only, course of action after a series of truancy incidents at school, slipping grades, and warning by the local police department that her son was observed in the company of drug dealers with long arrest records.
Worse, his attitude towards family and friends had changed. No longer the friendly outgoing kid, he had morphed into a somber and isolated young man who never shared his thoughts or articulated plans for his future.
She asked herself, “Why is this happening to me?” As a single parent, she had tried to be responsible, loving, and caring.
Desperate for perspective, she turned to the ancient book of the Bible. In Exodus 15, the Bible tells the story of the wilderness experience of the Jewish people. They were led by a man called Moses to escape slavery in Egypt, and began their journey to freedom through the wilderness. It started out as a short journey, but it dragged on for forty years.
In the Bible story, the Jewish people exhibited behavior that was akin to the behavior exhibited by my friend’s son. They were ungrateful, critical, hurtful, and full of spite toward Moses and God, even though they had been delivered from years of slavery in Egypt.
Readers of the biblical incident often find themselves critical of the people in the wilderness—they resembled spoiled children! The writer of this account wants his audience to criticize them because it’s like walking into a room and noticing a huge, ugly painting on the wall. Up close, however, the ugly painting turns out to be a mirror. The writer uses the wilderness experience as a way of illustrating that it takes time for us to focus on how to make things go right instead of complaining about why they went wrong.
My friend realized she had been asking the wrong question all along. Instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?” she was able to ask the one question that could change her life:
“How can this make me a better person?”
Where she was going was not as important as the self-awareness of who she was becoming. Her focus changed, and instead of dwelling on the negative, she looked for the positive in her situation.
Most people criticized my friend for her decision to send her son to wilderness training. “What about therapy?” they asked. “Try changing schools.” “You are treating him like a criminal.” At first, the vitriol behind the comments was hard to accept, but she recalled the image of the ugly painting that turned into a mirror. This insight gave her the mental toughness to march ahead despite the criticism. She used the right question to evaluate and enlarge her understanding of her environment.
Like my friend, the answers we get are often determined by the questions we ask. If we ask bad questions, we will get bad answers. If we ask empowering questions, we will get better answers because they will help us develop the self-awareness to understand how to react in positive ways to different situations that we will face in business and life.
If you are going through a difficult, uncertain time, here are better questions you can ask yourself to create more self-awareness:
1. CHANGE OF FOCUS QUESTIONS LEAD TO SELF-AWARENESS:
- What is something new that I observed today?
- What is something new that that I experienced this week?
- What would I like to accomplish in the next 12 months?
- What do I need to do today to make that happen?
2. CHANGE OF ATTITUDE QUESTIONS LEAD TO SELF-AWARENESS:
- Who is the happiest person I know?
- Who are the people I like and respect the most? Why?
- What are three new things I am thankful for each day?
- Can I describe one positive experience I’ve had each day?
3. CHANGE OF DIRECTION QUESTIONS LEAD TO SELF-AWARENESS:
- What do I truly love?
- What am I good at?
- What brings me satisfaction?
- What was the road I did not take in life?
- Is that road still beckoning me?
- What would that road look like today if I did take it?
Where you are going is not as important as who you are becoming.
Asking yourself the right questions to develop self-awareness can empower you to change the direction of your life.
© 2012 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.
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