Change Your Questions, Change Your Life

By Jim LaDoux
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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Stephanie Vasquez - March 8th, 2023 at 10:28am

I think this is a great way to begin with myself. I have heard on many occasions that if you are not in the right mindset, you can't move forward. Sometimes, on the day to day activities, we forget to take some time to reflect where do we want to go, or what do we want to accomplish. This also reminds me when Jim said that he takes some time to create a list of things he would like to do in the incoming year. I feel I need to do that for myself, as well as answer some of the questions that are written on this blog, and just spend sometime with me.

Shannon Guse - March 13th, 2023 at 7:02am


Thank you for highlighting Jim's suggestions of what do I want to do this year. I am going on "vacation" tomorrow and am creating a list of what do I want to do on vacation. It is only a week, not a year, but this self-evaluation may be exactly what I need to truly recharge! While I am on vacation, I am going to write a list of what do I want to do in April and May with the plan of always asking this question for the next few months. My hope is to expand this in working with my team. What do we want to accomplish this year? Why is this important? How can we get there? I'm looking forward to seeing where this can take us!

Shannon Guse - March 13th, 2023 at 6:57am

I am easily stuck in judgement because I am so sure I am correct or because my experiences have led me to form strong opinions about situations. Focusing on where I want to go, instead of focusing on the things that have hemmed me in, may shift my thinking from what factors (people, systems, places) have caused my current path to solutions and course-correction. Focusing on the road and not the wall is a great metaphor for getting where I want to go instead of thinking of all the reasons why I can't get there!

My brain often stays in logistics mode, thinking about the how not the what, which may be limiting my team and myself. I am not afraid to make brave and bold choices, but I do have a pattern of doing things the way that is most comfortable because it has worked in the past. This week I am going to ask myself and others, "Is there a better way?" as often as possible to see where this dreaming may take us!

Becky D'Angelo-Veitch - March 13th, 2023 at 3:18pm

One of my favorite nuggets from this article:

"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." (and I love that whole list of QT questions!)

I have used Question Storming with committees and our staff, and the process was really useful. I wonder about using it in one on one coaching--could it be "homework"? (ie, generate a list of 20 questions you have about this

Kim Ness - March 15th, 2023 at 5:12pm

Each of the different sections could be their own coaching focus with so many good questions to add to our list of coaching questions. But what struck me most is that there is so much internal work that we can (should) do to become a better coach. It feels a little intimidating to realize how I can easily flip from coach to client. If am able to ask myself these questions. If I can get into the habit of question thinking, how much more powerful and relevant will the questions be that I can ask my clients. Being self-aware helps you be more present with others. As you sit with a client and listen to their story, you can give them your all because you've already done your own work beforehand.

Nicole - March 29th, 2023 at 12:32pm

I'm really intrigued by the feed forward line of questioning. I'd love to figure out how to implement that in my ministry setting and with clients in other ministry settings. Being able to move my people to a future-oriented mindset would really move us forward in planning and living into a future reality instead of dwelling in the past.

Tony Myles - April 13th, 2023 at 2:24am

I like the reflection on how we all can get stuck in judging situations based on past experiences and our own beliefs. Instead of focusing on what we think is holding someone back, we can ask questions that shift their thinking to focus on where they want to go... from new possibilities to being more self-aware. I want to become a better coach who helps the client have a future-oriented mindset. To do this, I will work on being more present and effective in coaching sessions, helping others work towards that better future.

Charity Cuellar - April 16th, 2023 at 3:29pm

One of things I've liked best about coaching training is that I'm also learning to coach myself. I thought it was kind of a weird thing to disclose to people- the change I'm undergoing as a person, as a major byproduct of a coaching training. But I've actually liked that the ability to coach myself helps me relate to and be excited for the changes that people I coach undergo.

Sections 2 and 5 stood out to me for being on the things I'm working on most. One of the questions I ask myself regularly is "Why do I care so much about this?" and "So What do I want? No thinking- name the first thing that pops into my head." It usually is a variation of the same thing, and that's been very helpful. Section 5 on banishing judgements has been very impactful as well. I never realized how many negative and judgement mindsets I was feeding myself. And I'm working on comebacks to myself in this area. If I think something negative, I try to find a minute to reframe this idea.

Melonee Tubb - April 19th, 2023 at 3:40pm

I love the idea of question-storming as a team. I think it would be difficult at first, but powerful once we started seeing the results. I think encouraging team members to think of questions instead of ideas could help the folks on the team who aren't always comfortable with a flurry of ideas take on an inquisitive or investigative role and feel like they can participate in a more robust way.

Julie Gvillo - April 24th, 2023 at 8:51pm

Mel! What an important insight! Thank you for naming that.

Julie Gvillo - April 24th, 2023 at 5:05pm

I have no idea how I missed doing this assignment at the appropriate time, but I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner. These are excellent questions to be asking and I really like the concept of Question Thinking and Question Storming. Every part of this resonates with me, and I want to carry my notes around until I absorb it fully. I'm particularly drawn to the list of questions to entertain more often. I'm literally going to carry this around with me until it becomes a part of who I am.

Matthew May - November 7th, 2023 at 11:00am

The QT mindset is helpful for a coaching conversation. Social communication is extremely reactionary and is fast-paced. Coaching conversations allows spaces for deep dives into the thoughts of the client where we are asking them to be intentional with the questions asked. We talk about coaching mindset, but we also should invite our clients to have a Question Thinking mindset.