Ask Small Questions

The best way to engage the mind is questions over commands, and the best questions come in small packages.

“Small questions create a mental environment that welcomes unabashed creativity and playfulness.” — Robert Maurer

Remaining vigilant for small, positive change is a central tenet of kaizen.

Every employee in business, regardless of status or position, offers suggestions for small improvements uncovered in day-to-day work. This practice generates valuable ideas and leads to increased engagement and productivity among employees.

You can adopt this same practice in your personal life. It all starts with small questions.

  • “What is one thing I can do to start reading?”

  • “What item can I remove from the garage to reduce clutter?”

  • “What incremental improvement can I make to my product?”

Questions are more engaging than commands, primarily because questions engage the brain in what it does best — solving problems. Commands tend to make people defensive, and by extension, less cooperative. Surprisingly, the same is true of asking yourself questions instead of giving yourself commands.

Big questions trigger fear because they require big change. They are scary and rely on large reservoirs of willpower. Willpower ebbs and flows. It may abandon you when needed most.

Small questions are the opposite of scary. They are harmless and approachable by comparison. When fear is absent, your brain engages and seeks creative solutions without distraction.

Small questions should be productive and positive, not like this:

  • “Why am I such an idiot?”

  • “Why do bad things always happen to me?”

Negative questions, regardless of size, are self-destructive and self-fulfilling. Counter negative energy with small questions that focus on positive aspects of your life:

  • “What is one thing I am thankful for today?”

  • “What is one positive thing about myself?”

  • “What is one thing I accomplished today?”

Now that your mind is in a positive state, ask small questions about something you want to accomplish.

Always remember to keep it small!