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One of the most important ideas I have encountered in the work of Self-Help supremo Anthony Robbins concerns our use of inner questioning. I didn’t really ‘get’ NLP when I first met people who rated it. It seemed a bit cultic and snobbish. When I started reading Robbins, with his take on the subject in Awaken the Giant Within, and listening to his tapes and CDs, I finally grokked perhaps the most fundamental point in the whole vast corpus of material.

We have an internal dialogue going on most of the time we’re awake. We are representing our experiences with words. We are discussing, debating our pasts, presents, and futures using words. And we are probably doing a lot of it quite unconsciously. There may be habitual words and phrases that we are applying to our lives that are not entirely appropriate and may distort our understandings and options. It’s rather startling to notice the extent to which many people will use the word hate to refer to something in their lives. It might be referred to food or the weather or some manifestation of other people’s behavior. The use of the word intensifies the feeling. It may well be that another word, such as irritation, annoyance, or frustration might be a better fit. Changing your use of language in your own head can make a remarkable difference to how you frame and understand your life.

Robbins noticed that a significant percentage of our inner dialogue takes the form of questions. At one end of the spectrum we can find the “Why does this shit always happen to me?” type of question. It sits alongside “Why am I such an idiot?/do I always get things wrong?” and a heap of other similarly disempowering material.

Here’s the crucial point. The mind works in such a way that when a question is asked, it will rummage through the mental filing cabinet looking for things to arrange as an answer. If you ask why you are so stupid it will find any negative examples available to line up for you. If you are running those kind of programs it’s not too hard to see that you wont get far down the path of your dreams.

Choose your inner questions wisely. In the midst of some apparent life catastrophe dare to ask the ultimate power question, “what’s good about this?” Do that and you give your mind a chance to find some useful references and ideas to transform a situation.

I practice the art on a daily basis. I’ve been doing this for over a decade. First thing every morning, sometimes before I have barely opened my eyes, after briefly trying to remember my dreams, I will ask my power questions.

Is it possible for me to have a good day today?

Do I know what I need to do in order for that to happen?

Are these things that I mainly already know how to do?

Have I done them before successfully?

Will I feel good at the end of the day for having done them?

The answers are almost always yes for the whole list. That was even the case on the days of my parent’s funerals.

Sometimes circumstances may dictate the adding of more specific questions but the basic list above tend to be relevant every day.

The questions are usually about simple things, keeping to my exercise regime, whatever the writing/reading ratio for the day should ideally be. Handling domestic life, giving some quality time to my children, and so on.

I tend to repeat the questions and my answers a few times during the first few hours of my day and then remind myself at various points when they might need reinforcing, early evening for example if my intention was to go out for a run.

It’s a very simple strategy but a profound one nonetheless.  Adopting it also shines a general light on mental functioning. We are more likely to catch ourselves adopting toxic metaphors that distort our lives, more likely to habitually engage in the process of what Tony Robbins calls Transformational Vocabulary.

A whole bunch of external stuff remains out of our control. Some days there are going to be people near us who are not very happy. They may even start shouting at us. Sometimes we get ill. Economies fluctuate. Life presents difficulties. What is in our control is our response. In this is a glimpse of freedom and power. It is an affirmation of our centre of gravity. It’s the zone where all the real action has always been happening.






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