Marshall Goldsmith Blog

And, it’s not what you ask but how you ask it!

In my work as an executive coach, I teach people about the importance of self-reflection as a daily practice to changing behavior and becoming more successful. This daily practice that I teach, as you may know, comes in the form of the Daily Questions. I do this process myself every day and it has made a world of difference in my behavior!

When it comes to self-reflection, I’ve discovered that asking ourselves active questions rather than passive questions changes the focus of our answers and empowers us to make changes that we wouldn’t otherwise consider.

Let’s take me for example. If I ask myself, “Do I have good relationships at work?” or “How engaged was I today?” I am asking myself passive questions. These passive questions describe a static condition. They cause me to think of what is being done to me rather than what I am doing for myself.

Let’s analyze my first question, “Do I have good relationships at work?” If the answer is yes, I think about how I like to work with someone. If the answer is no, I think about what I don’t like about another person that makes it a bad working relationship. Either answer is an “environmental” answer. The reasons attributed to either answer are external factors. Answering such passive questions, seldom cause me to look within to take responsibility for my own relationships at work.

Now, let’s change this question to an active question, such as “Did I do my best to build positive relationships at work?” This question challenges me to describe or defend my actions with regards to whether or not I did my best to build positive relationships that day. It puts the responsibility for my relationships at work squarely on me. If positive relationships at work are important to me and I ask myself this question every day, I will start doing my best to build positive relationships! (In other words, I will get better!)

I have six active questions that I ask myself. These six questions are the first of the 32 daily questions that I ask myself every day. These 6 questions are:

  1. Did I do my best to increase my happiness?
  2. Did I do my best to find meaning?
  3. Did I do my best to be engaged?
  4. Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  5. Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  6. Did I do my best to make progress toward goal achievement?

The Daily Questions Process has made a huge difference in my life and everyone who tries the process agrees that it is immensely helpful in the journey toward changed behavior.

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