A Primary Question is a question or statement that “drives our life” and directs our energy and focus.
Most people have one “over arching” Primary Question that arises whenever life presents an opportunity to reflect, react or respond to a situation or decision. Your Primary Question may change during different seasons of your life, but it tends to be the Question that drives you to do what you do, live how you live, think how you think and make decisions.
Primary Questions tend to default towards negative self talk, limiting beliefs or rules we keep for ourselves (like “Will I ever heal?” Or “Why do things never work out for me? Or, “What would my dad think?”)…until we change our Question.
For example, if my default Primary Question in my life is , “Am I good enough?” …Then, throughout the day, as opportunities and circumstances arise to respond, this little question may creep up.
- He didn’t text me back. Am I good enough?
- Scrolling on Instagram. Am I good enough?
- Not closing a deal. Am I good enough?
- Showing up to my son’s school with break-and-bake brownies (when the other mom’s went homemade). Am I good enough?
- Deciding whether to invest in a $2000 self-development program. Am I good enough to spend this type of money?
The opposite of this question may be: “How can I be the best version of myself?”
Or perhaps my Primary Question is something like: “How can I be better?”
Well, if I am asking myself this every single day, then this question may explain what drives my workaholic nature, my motivation to win at everything, my constant comparison with myself, my never-ending desire to change my appearance, my people pleasing nature, and on and on. With this Primary Question top of mind (How can I be better?), I am constantly trying harder, focusing on to dos and strategies, and rarely if ever celebrating and acknowledging wins or taking a break. While your Primary Question may serve you in some ways, it may also poop you out—mentally and physically.
On the flip side: If my Primary Question is: “How can I make the world a better place?” What do you think my thoughts and actions look like from that?
One of the most powerful tools for personal change is the ability to change your Primary Question—especially if it’s not serving you.
To do this, the first step is to become aware of the questions you are currently asking yourself. Pay attention to your thoughts and take note of the questions that come up most often. Are they empowering or limiting? Once you have identified your limiting questions, it’s time to reframe them into empowering questions.
For example, instead of asking “Why can’t I lose weight?” ask “How can I be the healthiest version of myself today?” This question shifts your focus from the problem to the solution and opens up the possibility of taking action.
Another example is instead of asking “Why can’t I find a job?” ask a proactive question: “What would self-sustaining, thriving me do if she had the opportunity to find a job?” Or, “What steps can I take to find a job?” this question again shifts your focus from the problem to the solution and opens up the possibility of taking action.
It’s important to remember that you can’t always control the situations or circumstances in your life, but you can control your response to them. Asking empowering questions helps you focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t or a feeling of lack.
So let’s get to it.
Create a New Primary Question to Drive Your Life
The questions we ask ourselves daily drive us to do what we do.
- What is your primary focus in life right now? What do you consistently focus on? (Ie. Work, love, money, family, appearance, etc.)?
- What are your deepest desires for your life right now?
- What are your greatest fears in your life? (Ie. being alone, not being good enough, etc.)
- What are 2-3 primary beliefs or rules that guide you? (Ie. My dad’s voice, the Lord, spirituality, feeling significant or alive, etc.)
- Write down the EMPOWERING emotions you most consistently feel in your life.
- Write down the DISEMPOWERING emotions you most consistently feel.
- What Question do you ask most often based on this focus? (Ie. Am I good enough? How can I be better?)
- What NEW question will empower you to feel EMPOWERED? It can help to find a role model or think of the “ideal version” of you. (Ie. What would the best version of myself do? What would Tony do?)
Next Level: Find Your People
Another powerful way to change your Primary Question is to surround yourself with people who ask empowering questions. The people you spend the most time with have a significant impact on the way you think and feel—we are a sum total of those closest to us. If you’re surrounded by people who are asking limiting questions, it’s likely that you’ll start asking them as well. On the other hand, if you’re surrounded by people who are asking empowering questions and share a growth mindset, you’ll start to do the same.
- Who are the 3-5 people in your life, role models or others you admire that ask EMPOWERING questions?
- What lifestyle habits, practices, principles, beliefs or mindsets stand out about these people?
- What can you do to connect with more people like this or bring more EMPOWERMENT into your sphere?
Changing Your Primary Question
In summary, changing your Primary Question can have a powerful impact on your life. By becoming aware of the questions you currently ask yourself, reframing them into empowering questions, and surrounding yourself with people who ask empowering questions, you can shift your focus from problems to solutions.