Positive Questions for Powerful Change

Question MarkWhat if you could trick your brain into making all the right choices for you?   What if you sneakily set it up to choose the apple over the chocolate cake, of to stick out its tongue at your impulse to put that tempting trinket on your credit card?

Way back in 1980, Master NLP trainer Rex Steven Sikes, discovered a simple way that anyone can use to direct their thinking toward finding the solutions they were after.  He called it Directed Questions™.   Unfortunately, the method never got the attention it deserved.

Then, in 2008, Noah St. John stumbled on the method one morning in his shower when he was mulling over the lack of results he was getting using affirmations to create new behaviors.  He called it Afformations™ and has been making a great living telling people about it ever since.

In that same year, motivational trainer Kevin Hogan  picked up the idea and gave it the descriptive—and non-trademarked—name “positive affirmative questions.”

That’s what I call it, too; I abbreviate it as PAQ .    And because it’s one of the easiest and most powerful tools you can add to your personal growth toolkit, I want to share it with you today.

So, What’s a Positive Affirmative Question?

Simply put, a PAQ is a question you ask yourself in order to focus your brain on a positive behavior or attitude that you want to create or expand.

Their power comes from your mind’s need to search for answers to questions that you pose to it, and from the fact that, unlike affirmations, PAQs don’t give your brain something to argue with.

Let me give you an example.  Suppose you want to lose weight.  You could bombard your brain with an affirmative statement like “I enjoy eating healthy foods and exercising every day.”   That might help.  But if it were true, you would be eating healthily and exercising already.   So some part of your brain considers it a lie—or, at best, a wish—and refuses to see it as a reality.

But suppose, instead, you asked yourself questions like, “How many ways can I find to eat healthier foods?”  and “How can I add more activity to my day?”  How do you think your brain would react?

Here are a few more examples of positive affirmative questions:
(Note: when you say “I wonder…” you’re really asking a question.)

  • Why do I feel so good about myself now?
  • What’s good about this situation?
  • How quickly can I finish this project and do a fantastic job?
  • I wonder how soon I can reach my ideal weight?
  • How many ways can I find to stay within my budget?
  • What are some fun ways that I can learn this faster?
  • Why am I seeing so many great traits in my partner now?
  • Why am I feeling so much more confident now?
  • What’s good about this situation?

Why Positive Affirmative Questions Work

Rex Sikes, the fellow who calls these Directed Questions™, explains that questions direct the mind.  They send it inexorably on a search for answers.  They focus you on what you want and help you discover avenues for getting it.  And what we focus on becomes dominant in our lives.

Sikes claims they have 300-400 times more power than affirmations do.

Because PAQs are rooted in positive assumptions about your life rather than negative ones, they’re empowering.   They utilize your imagination and creativity and put your focus on you want instead of what you lack.  “Why am I so fortunate now?”  “How can I slim down and enjoy the process?”

A third reason for their power is that the answers come from within you.  They’re from the expert who knows you best, not some outside authority or guru.  So they feel more authentic, making it natural for you to accept the answers they generate for you.

When PAQs Backfire

Unlike affirmations, PAQs have a very low backfire potential.   When you use affirmations your mind has that tendency to argue with you.  If you say “I easily and confidently close sales,” your brain is likely to scoff, “You do not, you big coward.  You fumble and bumble and blow it every time.”

Well, on rare occasions—and I do mean rare– some PAQs can backfire, too.  It’s happened to me.  “Why am I so happy now?” was a signature question for me a couple years ago.  It’s what motivated me to start my blog, High on Happiness and I use it to this day.

Sometimes, in the beginning, when I was in a particular funk and I asked it, a grumpy inner voice would growl at me, “I’m not happy.  I’m a miserable wretch.”   And you know what I did?  I refused to accept that as an answer and growled right back, “I know you’re not happy.  But why am I so happy now?”  And my brain would, Oh!” as if it understood now, and go in search of things that were delightful, or comforting, or satisfying in my world.

Of course I was a newbie with PAQs at the time.  If I had understood them as well then as I do now, I would have known to rephrase the question:  “What are some ways I can begin to feel happier now?”  or “I wonder how many things I can find to feel happier about?”

I could even have used a PAQ to find a better question.  “What are some questions I could ask to help myself feel happier now?”

How to Put Positive Affirmative Questions To Work for You

By now, you probably see how easy it is to create PAQs.  First, you decide what you want—a change in attitude, a new approach to something, a behavior change, even a tangible acquisition.

Next, you form a question based around it, using words like “why,” “what,” “how,” “how many,” “how quickly” and “I wonder.”

Finally, you take action on the answers—not only because the answers will lead to success,  but to reinforce the whole process and prove its worth to you.

Sikes recommends that you think up questions for yourself every morning and every night, and that you practice with the method for 21 days in a row.   If you decide to adopt this as your positivity practice for the month, I guarantee that one month from now, you’ll see concrete evidence of this little tool’s mighty power.

You can start right now.  Ask yourself, “How many ways can I show Susan how much I liked this article?”

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5 thoughts on “Positive Questions for Powerful Change”

  1. Big thanks to Susan and Rex.

    I really needed to read this article today, as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and under-appreciated. Now I feel inspired again.

    Best wishes,
    Wael Masri

  2. Hi Saaid, Personally, I like to work with one at a time–until answers that please me begin flowing. Ask the question whenever you think of it. There are no rules. My best advice is to play with it and see what works best for you. It is a powerful technique. Your brain can’t resist the challenge of producing answers for you. Good luck! –Susan

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