Change Your Questions, Change Your Life

Change Your Questions, Change Your LIfe is a book that should be in every coach’s library. It’s chock full of insights and practical questions, quotes, approaches, and exercises to help individuals and the people we coach garner greater insights on their lives and ministries.

Marilee Adams shows us the power of questions to direct our thinking and therefore our actions and results by designing the most powerful questions for getting us there. Her framework for applying powerful questions to our own lives as well as the people we coach provide us with visions of new futures . Listed below are a few of the many takeaways you’ll find in this book.


I am intrigued by the process highlighted Marilee’s book called feed forward where leaders learn to ask for ideas to recast the future. It involves listening without judgement, saying “thank you” for suggestions in what Marilee refers to as “listening with learner ears.”  It was mentioned in the book that race car drivers are taught to “focus on the road — not the wall ” where focusing on the road that represents one’s highest potential and reflect a preferred future. Questions I plan to ask myself more often include:
  • What do I want my marriage to look like  one year from now?
  • How would I describe the relationship I'd like with my two grown children?
  • How will be make our new home a place of hospitality for guests and a sacred retreat for ourselves?
  • What activities and hobbies will I be enjoying regularly a year from now that I rarely do?


When reading this book, I noticed how rarely I pay attention to my internal questions/self-talk unless I’m reminded to do. I need to "reset" my mind several times a day to think with a positive, proactive, growth-mindset rather than one focused on self-limitations and judgement.  I'm trying on asking myself the following questions throughout the day:
  • What am I feeling right now?
  • What are my best options for where I invest my time and energy right now?
  • Is there anything I'm doing that is sabotaging my best self?
  • Am I reverting to judging myself or others rather than seeing people's possibilities?


Question Thinking (QT) is a system of skills and tools using questions to expand how you approach virtually any situation. It begins with asking questions of ourselves and only then asking them of others. QT challenges one to be in charge of our own thinking where we notice the questions we’re asking ourselves throughout the day, and inviting one into designing new questions that lead to better results. QT helps us think mindfully rather than reactively, and helps us recognize the multitude of options we have when responding to situations.  QT provides tools that can help us take charge of our thinking, our emotions, and our behavior not only in our jobs and professions but in every area of our lives. Marilee writes, “With our questions we make the world” where we use auestions to open our minds, eyes, and hearts, as well as to learn, connect, and create. QT shifts our orientation from fixed opinions and easy answers to curiosity and open-minded conversations that provide fertile ground to collaborate, explore, and innovate.

I've realized that living into QT thinking comes down to increasing the quantity and quality of the questions we ask ourselves and one another .Questions I'm asking myself to strengthen my QT skills and awareness include:
  • Am I living out of my excuses right now or into my preferred future?
  • What are my strengths and how can I use them more intentionally today?
  • What am I currently tolerating that neither serves me or others?  What would it look like to no longer tolerate that behavior or situation?
  • How can I avoid the future being a recycled version of the past?
  • Is there a better way to . . . . (fill in the blank)?
  • Who can help me reach my full potential?  Take the next faithful step?


Question Storming is is highlighted as a practice at the end of the book and is based on three premises: 
  1. Great results begin with great questions. 
  2. Most any problem can be solved with enough right questions, and.
  3. The questions we ask ourselves often provide the most fruitful openings for new thinking and possibilities. 

Question storming is typically done with a group or team, especially when one is exploring ideas and possibilities. It is also used when setting individual, leadership or team goals. It can be done in person or virtually. Often at the end , action plans are made or revised based on discoveries made during the question storming session. Questions should be first-person singular or plural, based on a learner mindset, mostly open-ended, and invite courageous and provocative conversations.


A judging mindset leads to shame, scapegoating, and reliving what's not working. Reframe your mindset and questions that inspire hope, possibilities, and what's present rather than what's not.  The questions below help me reveal what's going on internally:
  • Is this what I want to be feeling?
  • Is this what I want to be doing?
  • Where would I rather be? How can I get there?
  • Is this working? What are the facts ?
  • How else can I think about this? What assumptions am I making?
  • What is the other person thinking, feeling, and wanting?
  • What humor can I find in this situation?
  •  What’s my choice or decision right now ?

Listed below are questions I wish to entertain more often in my life and ministry settings:
  • What do I want?
  • What assumptions am I making?
  • What am I responsible for?
  • How else can I think about this?
  • What is the other person thinking, feeling, and wanting?
  • What am I missing or avoiding?
  • What can I learn from this person or situation? This mistake or failure ? This success?
  • What questions should I ask myself and/or others?
  • How can I turn this situation into a win-win one?
  • What’s possible?
  • What are my choices?
  • What action steps make the most sense ?

Final  Thoughts

Einstein reminds us that “ we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” and challenged people to "question everything!"  Marshall Goldsmith reminds us that "what got you here won’t get you there."

The author reminds its readers that:
  • Great results begin with great questions. 
  • Every question missed is a potential crisis waiting to happen. 
  • A question not asked is a door not opened. 
  • Our creativity is bound up in our ability to find new ways around old problems.
  • Failure is often crucial for learning how to do something well.
  • Curiosity is the fast track to learning.
  • Movement occurs when we let go of  "Who’s to blame ?" and focus on ‘"What am I responsible for?’ ”
  • Change begins when the person who wants the change is sufficiently hungry .
  • Blame keeps us stuck in the past whereas responsibility paves the path for a better future .
  • Choice begins when we are mindful enough to observe our own thoughts and feelings and the language we use to express them.
  • Questions drive results.
  • We’re All recovering judgers.

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself throughout the week:
  1. What assumptions am I making?
  2. How else can I think about this?
  3.  What is the other person thinking, feeling, and wanting?

Here are 3 questions you might ask your colleagues/team members:
  1. Do we really listen to people’s questions and suggestions?
  2. How often do we ask, as a team, "Is there a better way . . . .?"
  3. When do we get caught up in judging conversations? How can we move toward "growth-oriented" conversations?
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