What’s the best question to ask?

I’m a big believer in the power of questions to direct people’s thinking. The point of this post isn’t to come up with great answers, it’s to come up with great questions.

I’ve been a fan of Anthony Robbins and have been listening to his CD’s and tapes since I was in my 20′s. One of recordings he did that influenced me the most was his tape on “The Power of Questions.”

The essence of the tape was simply this: Your mind is like a computer — if you ask it a question, it will give you an answer. People’s minds just work that way.

Try it sometime. Find a quiet place, then sit and ask yourself a question and see what your mind comes up with.

Maybe you could ask, “what can I do to reduce the impact I’m having on the planet?”. Or “how can I be a better parent (or child, spouse, friend, etc.)”. What I’ve found is that if I ask myself questions, my mind will come up with answers. It’s really interesting to me.

Tony goes on to say that “If you want better answers, ask yourself better questions.” That is, don’t ask “Why me?” or “How come I can never get ahead?” — instead ask better questions like, “What single change can I make — today — that will improve my life the most?”.

Better questions give better answers. And that brings us (finally!) to the point of this post.

What is the best question we can ask ourselves to help us change our behaviors to improve the way we live and the impact we have on the planet?

Here are some examples:

“Who can I write a letter to that will result in the biggest reduction in energy usage?”

This brings to mind for me the letter that blogger a seigel wrote to the editors at Consumer Reports asking them to include power consumption as one of the criteria in their evaluations of TV sets. If a letter changes their review process, it could change buying criteria for many consumers.

“What activity can I undertake that will have the biggest impact on my personal energy consumption?”

Well, maybe it’s replacing your light bulbs with CFL bulbs. Then again, maybe it’s doing an overall energy audit on your home.

So that’s the point of this post — and the question I’m asking today — “What questions can we ask ourselves that will help us make the biggest impact on our environment?”

What are your thoughts?

12 thoughts on “What’s the best question to ask?

  1. I agree — and wasn’t it some ancient Greek who came up with the idea that only through asking questions do people learn anything? Plato, maybe…or Socrates…I’m not sure ;)

    I think this is the exact approach that is lacking in encouraging environmental behaviour. It’s too easy to just shove rhetoric and “propaganda” down people’s throats, and too many people just close up and ignore it, thinking you’re asking them to abandon “comfortable” life as they know it. I think that if people just would open their minds to the idea of considering the environmental impacts of their actions, the majority would be willing to change, at the very least, one small thing. Using your example, changing light bulbs. I think that when some people realize that making a change for the environmental good can be simple, and ‘painless’, they begin to seek out more and more ways to reduce their ecological footprint. Of course, there’ll always be those who think making the tiny change is all they’re willing to do — but at this point, we need everyone to make at least one small change, I believe!

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  3. Some environmental questions that always comes to my mind:

    is it really mostly regular people’s fault the environment is messed up, or is it mostly the fault of businesses being irresponsible? How big is the impact of regular people on the environment compared to business, various industries, etc.?

    If regular people were all model citizens, environmentally, but businesses still kept on being as irresponsible as ever (such as “ocean dead zones” apparently being created mainly by “nitrogen runoff” from farm fertilizer, etc. being dumped in the water) – would the environment still be nearly as messed up as it is, in spite of the average joe always doing the right thing environmentally?

    Or, put more simply – if, for instance, regular people never cut down another tree, but businesses kept on clear-cutting rainforests, wouldn’t we still have a problem?

  4. what a great post, and now I don’t have to be so hard on myself for always wanting to ask questions, ;) the more you do it, the better questions you ask:

    To me I continually ask myself: what things can I give up that in my past was important, but for my future, is not necessary. The less the environmentally friendly it is, the more I am willing to let it go. This process has continually simplified my life, I have less distractions, and spend more time doing what I love doing, and it brings me a conscious satisfaction.

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