Asking the right question

illustration of three different looking doorsA while back, when my shrink and I were trying to dismantle my Lack of Entitlement Issues, she had me ask myself a question repeatedly: What do I feel like doing?

Like the complaint-free bracelet or any other kind of check-in built around raising awareness, it worked like gangbusters once I focused on it for a while. Which is to say, it probably would not have moved me forward had I not made it Project Front-and-Center, but once I did, it moved me from a place of not even realizing I had stuff I wanted to ask for to what I suppose will be a long, flat plateau of asking for it outright. Still, it's a kind of progress.

One of the tricks of forward motion, though, is learning to ask the right question. This is where the older among us usually have it all over the younger, because we've been in enough situations where we've done things right and wrong that we have a working vocabulary of questions for various conundrums.

For some reason, though, I'd never found a good question for grappling with immediate satisfaction vs. delayed gratification. I mean, I'd powered through quitting smoking and transitioning onto the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, but there were really compelling things urging me on in the moment: inability to breathe, for the former, and blood pouring out of my ass, for the latter. Once the super-compelling reason disappeared, it was much, much harder to just say "no" to tasty grains and sugar. (Fortunately for me with regard to tobacco, the stuff tastes and smells vile once you've been off it for a while.)

More and more ideas have been coming to me via my gut lately, possibly because there is a lot more gut lately, thanks to straying from SCD, and I've been better about giving them the attention to float up to me (possibly as a result of the awareness-raising from the Lack of Entitlement exercise.) And a few days ago, this came up: instead of asking myself if I really wanted this (bad thing, usually carbs), or if something else wouldn't be better for me (duh!), or what such-and-such-inspiring-hero would do, or if this would give me more or less room/health/whatever, I should ask how I wanted to feel: right now, in five minutes, the next day, etc.

It's worked and it's not worked, and so it's really too soon to say if it's a significantly "better" question. Honestly, I find that I'm more willing to reason out the answer to any question if I'm better rested, so the truly significant gift I can probably give myself is less about the perfect set of questions and more about eight hours.

Still, I wonder: if framing has so much to do with what we do, what are the framing devices that work the best? And which of these were truly surprising to you? The "feeling" angle seems so obvious in hindsight that I figure there are probably other, even better questions out there.

So how about it? Are there questions, ways of framing a situation, a decision, that finally turned the key in the lock for you and made the tumblers fall into place? Or is it more about powering through for you?


Image by katietower via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.