Another take-away from To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink…  do ask, don’t tell… yourself.The first time I read Napoleon Hill’s famous book “Think and Grow Rich” was several decades ago and it did impact my life profoundly.     I remember writing down goals, stating them as affirmations and telling myself that they were true.    In many cases, it worked.   In many other cases, I noticed I would immediately jump into a bit of self-doubt about whether or not these goals were possible for me.

A few years ago I read a book by Noah St. John about asking yourself questions instead of stating the goal.   He had found that this triggers your mind to think of ways to get to the solutions.   Daniel Pink cites research that supports this approach too.  So for example, instead of saying “I’m the best and I can do it,” ask “How can I do it?” It’s called “interrogative self-talk,” and has been shown to be more effective than positive statements alone.  Asking questions leads to answers. Your brain jumps straight to one of its strengths- problem solving-  with very little effort.   Plus, it reminds you of your motivation too.

Related to this is the idea of asking  a different question “why isn’t it lower?”    The example he gives is summarized by Daniel Pink in an interview that I’ve quoted here:
“What this motivational interviewing technique suggests that we do is to say to my daughter, “Eliza, on a scale of one to 10 — one meaning not ready at all, 10 meaning totally ready to do this — how ready are you to clean up this mess of a room?” She’s obviously not that ready to do it because it’s still messy, so let’s say that she says a three on a scale of 10. All right, this is where it gets interesting. I say, “Three, okay great. Why isn’t it lower?” This is the really key point here in this therapeutic technique: Why isn’t it lower? First of all the question is a surprise because the standard expectation is, “Three!? What do you mean? It should be a nine! This is really important!”

She begins summoning her own reasons for doing something: Well, it’s sometimes hard to find stuff; sometimes you and Mom aren’t around so if I lose something I can’t find it; it actually feels a little bit better when my room is a little bit clean. It’s active… so she has to respond actively but she also summons her own autonomous, intrinsically motivated reasons for doing something. That’s generally a better path to sustained behavior.”

While this is directed more at moving someone else to do something, I’ve found it is equally effective in helping me to move myself to do something ;-)

I hope you ask yourself some good questions today!