We want to do things that we don’t really want to do. It sucks.
Cold calls. Exercise. Writing. Tax returns. Saving.
The list goes on. Humans struggle. It feels like being torn in two directions. You intellectually want to do something scary like phoning new prospects, while simultaneously (and instinctively) avoiding it.
To get the nasty, scary stuff done we have to manipulate ourselves. Willpower is the blunt instrument of self manipulation. A psychological club with a nail through it. This article serves up the razor-sharp samurai sword alternative.
To manipulate behavior, you have to manipulate thinking.
Makes sense, right? The problem isn’t what you’re doing, it’s what you’re thinking right before you start doing it. If behavior is the proverbial boulder (hard to start rolling and hard to stop if it goes in the wrong direction) then your thoughts are a mighty lever. When applied with precision, they can change everything.
So how does one go about changing thoughts, deliberately?
It’s easy, when you put thoughts under the microscope.
All thoughts begin with a question. These questions, some more conscious than others, are asked by our internal dialogue – that psychological chatter between ourselves and ourselves.
“What should I have for breakfast?”
“What time is it?”
“What does she mean when she says that?”
“What am I supposed to do now?”
“Why does this keep happening to me?”
All examples of the kind of mental questions that explode in our head, at the same pace that spark plugs ignite fuel in an engine. Our mental questions set the fires of thought burning.
News Flash: We answer any question we ask ourselves
No matter who you are (or what your IQ is), you will answer every single mental question you pose yourself. Therein lies the source of human potential.
Stop and think about this. This is huge.
When Thomas Edison asked “How could a filament burn incandescent for hours?” …. again and again… he eventually came up with the answer. That’s how the brain works.
The fundamental difference between Edison and mediocre people is the quality of the questions they ask themselves.
We have unlimited potential to answer questions, yet most people spend their time focusing on questions like the ones listed above.
Stupid questions will evoke stupid answers.
Depressed people tend to ask themselves “Why do I feel so down?”. Their unconscious mind always rewards them with an answer. Typically, it’s a rich and detailed mental summary of all the ways in which their life sucks.
That’s why, as an aside, good therapists never ask “Why are you depressed?” (the answers only depress the patient more!) but “What has made you feel good?”.
The secret to behavior-change is asking better questions.
When an entrepreneur has “Cold Call Reluctance” (a heinous, revenue-draining affliction), you can bet they’re asking some variety of “If I do this, what could go wrong?”
Their unconscious mind (their imagination!) rewards them with an image of exactly what could go wrong. It isn’t rational to imagine people yelling, rejecting or being furious. And yet, your mind will imagine it (vividly) if you ask a question that can be answered no other way.
Don’t be a moron.
Want to force yourself to make cold calls? Mediate on the question “How much fun can I have doing this?” until you’re excited!
It’s that simple.
Ask yourself questions about what you want. Don’t ask questions that focus on what you do not want. Also, don’t let your mind ask itself any old question. Bring intent and purpose to the game.
Print off and laminate a list of five “power questions” and hang it in your shower. Ask yourself these questions, until you get answers, every morning. This really works.
Try questions like
“How much fun can I have doing <insert feared/procrastinated thing here>?” <– Works because it presupposes fun and tricks your unconscious mind into having it!
“Why do I want, need and crave the results from doing <insert thing here>?” <– Works because it forces you to imagine all the jet-skis you’ll buy when you make all the sales!
“How great will it feel immediately after I FINISH doing <insert thing here>?” <– Keeps you focused on that sweet moment of glorious warm fuzzies, when it’s done. Does this with game-changing psychological precision.
“How much have I got to be grateful for right now?” <– Presupposes that you do indeed have something (asks to quantify how many things). Great for all moments of existential angst. Not the huge difference from asking “What have I got to be grateful for?
“How expertly/swiftly can I solve <insert massive industry challenge here>?” <– Answering this question will make you rich and famous.
Most people habitually ask questions that break down the excitement they feel about doing big, meaningful or important stuff.
If you’ve ever caught yourself not working out because of the imagined hassle of “getting to the gym, sweating, having to shower and all that” … then you know what I’m talking about.
Ask better questions and you’ll start doing the stuff you really want to do. The only reason you don’t already is that you’ve got a bad habit. Habits can be changed.
Ask better questions. Do what you want to do. Manipulate yourself into doing work that counts.