March 12, 2018

What If?

Asking yourself life-changing questions

By Brigit Atkin

At a family reunion years ago, we played the game “What if?”. To play, everyone sits in a circle and writes down a question that starts with the phrase, “What if?”. It can be any kind of question, whether it is serious or silly. The questions are then gathered and redistributed randomly to another person. Once everyone has a question that they didn’t write, they answer it however they want, again being serious or silly. For the last part of the game, everyone goes around the circle and reads there cards, with one catch: they read the question only, and the person next to them reads only the answer written on their paper. This provides mis-matched answers, which is the point of the game – usually hearing a question with the wrong answer is pretty funny, either because it makes absolutely no sense, or because it’s surprisingly true.

Questions in a game like this can be goofy, but well-asked questions in the game of life can be powerful – a game-changer, if you will. They can help us see, feel, think, and do things differently. Do you want better relationships? Ask better questions. Do you want a great life? Ask great questions.

Wendy Watson Nelson, PhD in family therapy and gerontology, wrote a book entitled, Change Your Questions Change Your Life, in which she explores the many different kinds of questions that can bring about enlightenment and transformation. In a section of the book, she addresses the “What if” kinds of questions, which are effective at getting one to look at his or her problems in a whole new way. As you ponder on a troublesome situation in your life, play with some of the following questions for a fresh perspective:

  • What if such and such were the case instead of how it is? Suspend reality for a brief moment by turning the whole situation upside down. See what new ideas present themselves.
  • What if the situation were reversed? What if Dad had a terminal illness rather than Mom? How would that change things for you?
  • What if the timing were different? What if this was happening five years from now? Would that make any difference?
  • What if your actions were different? What would happen if you confided in someone instead of keeping it all inside? Would that help?

As you apply these questions, is there anything that invites you to think or act differently? One quality question really can make a difference. I invite you to ask yourself one “What if” question this week, be it silly or serious, as long as it encourages you to look at your troubles in a new light. Great questions will challenge your perception, and invoke the winning answers that can change your life!

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