Failure, Progress or Success?

I was an only child. I don't know if my mom was worried about losing me, but every time I sneezed she'd ask: "Are you getting sick?"

Now, almost every morning my wife asks me: "Did you sleep?"

Both of these questions presuppose failure: you're getting sick; you didn't sleep. The only way to answer these questions is to make a picture of "getting sick" and compare it to your internal experience. Whether it was in your head or not, you have to think about getting sick or not sleeping.

Both of these questions are yes/no, good/bad questions. There's no shades of gray.

The same thing happens in business. "Did you finish that project?" (You did? Good. You didn't? Bad.)

Sadly, we all ask too many questions that presuppose failure, not progress or success.

Presupposing Progress or Success
What if:

  • My wife had asked: "How well did you sleep?" (Presupposing "you slept well.")
  • My mother had said: "That was a great sneeze. Didn't that feel great?" (Presupposing sneezes mean you feel good.)
  • The manager had asked: How far along are you on that project?" (Presupposing you are far along on the project.)

By asking a "How well" or "How far along" or "How much progress" question, you turn yes/no, good/bad into a measure of progress and success.

Asking your teenagers: "How much of your homework have you completed?" presupposes they've completed at least some of their homework. It also presupposes that they complete their homework.

You're starting to get the idea, aren't you? It's possible to phrase any question in a way that presupposes progress or success instead of failure. Doing so will point the mind in a positive, life-affirming direction.

Here's My Point
We all get stuck in patterns of behavior that we learned from our parents, siblings and coworkers. They may have wanted us to be well and safe, but they asked questions about avoiding failure, not achieving success.

It takes a little practice to learn how to ask progress/success questions, but wouldn't it be worth it? How can you most easily learn to ask questions that paint mental pictures of the kind of future you want to create for yourself, your family and your company?

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