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Can a Simple Question Change Your Life?

Can a Simple Question Change Your Life?

BY Michelle McQuaid

Do you have the chance to do what you do best each day? Not just now and again, not even just most days, but each and every day? Take a moment to think about it. Do you have the chance to do what you do best each day? Not just now and again. Not even just most days. But each and every day, do you have the chance to what you do best?

Back in 2007 my answer to this question was a resounding: “Hell no!”

Although I was living in New York with my beautiful family, a good job that paid me more money than I could spend and a body that was in good health, each day it was becoming harder and harder to find the energy to get out of bed. There’s nothing unique about this story. The truth is, less than 30% of people around the world describe themselves as thriving. Instead most of us report that we are struggling or even suffering as we face into each day ahead.

So as I lay there in our New York apartment wondering if perhaps this was all there really was to life, I couldn’t help but wonder: “If I was truly doing what I do best each day what would my life and the world around me actually look like?”

A year later this question propelled me into a classroom at the University of Pennyslvania to study a Masters In Applied Positive Psychology with Professor Martin Seligman and his team of experts committed to exploring the science of human flourishing. And it was there I met the man who would change my life forever.

At first glance you’d have no idea that Professor David Cooperrider, is a man sought out by world leaders including Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Kofi Anan and the Dali Lama on how to create positive lasting changes to make our world better. Until he started speaking.

Based on his research, David gave us four simple questions that day that have made it possible not to just do more of what I do best each day, but to help others, entire workplaces and whole communities do the same. Watch my Happiness & It’s Causes talk to find out what they were and how they’ve helped to grow the United Nations Global Compact for sustainability from 1500 to over 8000 of the world’s largest organizations, improved energy efficiency across Massachusetts delivering nearly $9 billion in benefits for residents and businesses, and brought together the world’s religious leaders to unite more than 7 million people of different faiths to help build a better world.

What Will You Learn?

  • [2:03] Every action you take is preceded by a question. But you may be so focused on what you need to get done that you aren’t even aware of the questions you are asking.
  • [2:35] Questions that look for the true, the good and possible are what enable you to flourish. Instead of trying to change things by focusing on fixing what isn’t working, look for and build on the good in your life.
  • [3:21] Your brain isn’t wired to look for the true, the good and the possible. You can train your brain to look for the positive with four simple questions.
  • [4:46]  Choosing to do what you do best each day even for just a few minutes, can be enough to make your dreams a reality, and gives others the opportunity to see the potential that radiates within you.
  • [6:30] A question can change a life in ways that will positively ripple right around the world.  You just have to be brave enough to ask.

What Can You Try?

Try these simple Appreciative Inquiry questions to help you do more of what you do best each day:

  • Discover the best of your past – When you have the chance to do what you do best  – when you’re feeling engaged, energized and enjoying life – what’s happening? Get clear on the strengths you have to draw upon, in order to create the future that you want.
  • Dream of what’s possible – If you could do what you do best more consistently in your life what might be possible as you look ahead? What would this future look like, sound like, feel like? What impact would you have had? Why would this make you proud? Make some space to get clear on what your strengths-fueled future might look like.
  • Design pathways forward – How can you move from where you are right now, to where you want to be? Create a plan A, B and C so that if that if you encounter obstacles on one pathway it doesn’t bring you unstuck. What plans can you put in place, what actions can you take, what resources can you leverage to make your dream a reality?
  • Deliver the change you want – If there was one action you could take where would you be willing to start? If there was one step you could take in the next 24 – 48 hours to start moving down the pathways you’ve mapped, what are you willing to do? What support or accountability do you need to ensure you follow through?

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