According to Marine vet and former US Capitol Police agent Andrew Wittman, life’s not about finding the right answers.
It’s about asking the right questions.
“If you ask a bad question, you’re going to get a bad answer,” he tells Business Insider. “I’ve done personal training for a number of years. I’ve had clients just come up and ask me, ‘Why am I fat?’ That’s a bad, horrible question. A better question would be, ‘How can I be healthy and fit?’
During his stint as a federal agent, Wittman protected members of Congress like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Lieberman. He’s now the CEO of The Mental Toughness Training Center and author of “Ground Zero Leadership: CEO of You.”
He says that by asking downer questions, we’re priming our brains for negative, self-fulfilling prophecies.
“The brain literally is a search engine,” he says. “The human brain has to answer a question. It doesn’t have to come out of your mouth, but if you have a question, it has to search for the answer. For example, you’ll ask ‘How can this day be any worse?’ Well, your brain goes and finds the way the day could be worse.”
Of course, that means that questions are a two-way street. By asking more optimistic questions, we can boost our chances of succeeding.
It’s all about the not-so-subtle impact that expectations have on our behaviour. Psychology Today contributor and doctor of psychology Carolyn Kaufman writes: “Our expectation that we will see a particular outcome changes our behaviour, which shapes the way others see us. In turn, others provide the feedback we’ve set ourselves up to get, which serves to reinforce the original belief.”
So a more positive approach to asking questions can set us on the path toward success.
But what if you’re currently stuck in a negative loop? Wittman has a suggestion for breaking free of damaging self-fulfilling prophecies.
“When you hear that inner voice that says, ‘That’s impossible, I can’t do this,’ just think, ‘OK I can’t, but, if I could, how would I do it?'” he says.
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