“The Quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to the quality of questions they are prepared to ask themselves”
– Socrates 469 -399BC.
What a profound quote! Gets you thinking doesn’t it?
Also, if you replace the word “life” with a specific aspect of your life that you would like to consider e.g. business, relationships, or health it invokes the same critical thought processes. I think it is a great quote and far be it from me to be censorious of Socrates, the great Greek philosopher, but although it seems very profound and promotes great thought, I believe it does not tell the whole story and could be regarded as being somewhat flawed.
Flawed in the respect that the common denominator in getting the answers is that they are provided by the individual who is asking the questions.
Yes, the individual may ask themselves some very high quality, penetrating, in-depth questions but the idea promoted by Socrates still relies on that same individual providing the answers. They could actually ask some amazing questions but the flaw is that they also try to answer them. Unless they are extremely proficient reflective practitioners who are expert at being honest, open and balanced with themselves, it is quite likely that the answers that they arrive at will be overlaid with their belief system and their values, their idiosyncrasies and conditioning which they have built up over the whole of their lives. The answers they give will have gone through the cognitive filters within their brain which may taint their results. There may be a tendency to justify their answers with their own reasoning. This is what I like to call the Vicky Pollard Syndrome. The “Yes, but No, but Yes but…….” response named after a character in a popular UK Television comedy series who when caught and challenged about her behaviour would start her reply as above and make bizarre excuses which she believed to be true. Albeit less extreme, within our minds we make a statement or pose a question and we start to justify our answer with a rationale borne from our experience, values, beliefs and conditioning. There is no doubt we often genuinely believe what we are telling ourselves and every now and again we know we are being less than honest with ourselves but go on to justify that with another value or belief!
How many times have you asked yourself why you didn’t do something which you know or feel you should get done answered with “Yes, but, the reason I didn’t do that was ……. lack of time, finances, knowledge.” Permutate any combination you can think of. Sound familiar?
A classic situation I hear when dealing with individuals who are seeking to expand their property portfolio is the issue of obtaining funds or their perceived lack of funds. We’ve all heard about changing the statement from “How can do this great deal when I haven’t got any funds” to a much more positive and solution focused question “I’ve got a great deal. How can I get the funds?” or “Who do I know who has the funds?” Both good, positive, open questions that should stimulate the individual to come up with some answers and therefore assist them to move forward.
However, the reality is that no matter how excellent the questions posed are, the answers are very often tainted with our limiting beliefs, emotional baggage, with our values/beliefs which all limit our cognitive reasoning. So, even the above questions are often met with the answer, “But none of my friends/peers/relatives have money!”
So, how can we improve on the quote to make it work even harder?
I believe the quote should read – “The quality of a persons’ life is in direct proportion to the quality of the questions they are prepared to ask themselves and the quality and depth of the answers that they are prepared to give”. As I alluded to earlier on, it can be incredibly difficult for a 60-year-old like myself to wash away all my limiting beliefs, to ignore all those emotions, values and the years of conditioning, pre-preconceived ideas and filters that I have, in order to answer those questions in a totally honest and balanced way.
Indeed, it is often the case that due to our limited answers we end up either continually coming back to the same issues or going around in circles. Sound familiar?
A common example of poor questions in respect of the property scenario described would be around the perceived difficult conversation about money such as “How do I ask for money without embarrassing myself or the person I am asking?” or “What if the other person gets offended by my asking for money?”
Note that the language of both questions indicates a limiting belief – that asking for money is embarrassing or is likely to offend someone being asked. However, with the appropriate guidance and prompting this can be turned in to far more positive questions which would help to produce a positive outcome.
So, where could an individual go to seek help or assistance in moving forward with issues or concerns which are holding them back?
How empowering would it be to be able to overcome your limiting beliefs, be confident about having those difficult conversations and move forward with issues or goals?
It’s my belief that this is where the assistance of an experienced coach and mentor can be of great assistance. They can help you by asking those good, high quality questions and then making sure that the answers you give reflect that quality. Those answers can then be clarified and where appropriate challenged so that those limiting beliefs of yours are reduced or even removed all together.
Through skilled questioning and listening the coach can help you gain the desired outcome with what I call the 3 C’s of coaching.
Clarity. By asking in-depth, open, purposeful questions and then probing the answers with insightful, intuitive follow up questions the individual can arrive at position of clear focus on the real issues, or determine a real vision or goal for the future.
Confidence. Helping you identify your limiting beliefs and thoughts and replace them with empowering, supportive and helpful ones. Helping you to understand how you are getting in your own way and giving you options and choices to move forward.
Commitment. Making you accountable for your answers, ensuring they are honest, balanced and fair. Also by getting you to commit to take the action needed to reach your goals and aims.
I have been a coach and mentor in leadership, management and career planning for over 30 years and I am passionate about using my skills to help others fulfil their potential on their own journey. Daily, I am actively engaged coaching individuals and hear and see some of the common issues holding individuals back. It’s no surprise to me that sometimes even what might seem like the basics to one individual are a significant challenge to others and prevents them from achieving their goals. That’s where a good, experienced coach can help you.
Would Socrates have benefited from a coach? Would it have helped him to have been challenged over his quote and would it have changed it?
Who can tell but I would have really liked the opportunity to try!!
Adapted from an article written by Rob McPhun and published in the No.1 UK Magazine for Property investors – YPN. (Your Property Network magazine)