For decades I told students that getting the right answer to the wrong question is no more beneficial than getting the wrong answer to the right question. Often people find themselves in the same situations over and over again. In part this is because; unlike the old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt”, the opposite is actually true… Familiarity breeds comfort. It is for this reason that when shopping people will buy the name-brand over the generic brand (assuming money is not a crucial issue). It’s the reason that a person may leave one bad relationship and then reconnect with someone else who’s a clone of the previous object of their affection. Usually, when they first meet this “new” person, they will say something like: “I feel like I’ve known this person all my life.” Well, that may be because they were already comfortable with the familiar traits that they were experiencing with that new person. After a few months go by, and the new relationship starts floundering and they can’t understand what went wrong.
I would suggest that there are two critical changes in mindset that must be made if you choose to change the direction of your life and increase your level of happiness. One is a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone even if it makes you feel a bit unsafe and vulnerable. The second is to reevaluate the questions that you are asking instead of wondering why you don’t get better answers to the same old questions.
People typically get stuck in a rut and have trouble breaking free from their comfort zone and the habitual and familiar behaviors that give them a sense of safety. As well, people sometimes feel that they have so much time, money, or emotional energy invested into something that they must simply push on. There’s an old saying, “Change before you have to”. What usually occurs, however, is an unwillingness to change until there’s no other choice. Then oftentimes it’s too late.
If you are not getting useful answers to the questions you’ve been asking about yourself and about your life perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the questions that you’re asking. For example, let’s say the question at hand is: “How is it that I work so hard and still can’t get that promotion?” If a productive answer continues to evade you, it may be simply that the question is flawed. Perhaps the question should be: “Am I in the right place and doing what will make me happy for the rest of my life?” If, for example, someone repeatedly tries to get another person to like them with no success and repeatedly asks the question: “Why don’t they like me?, perhaps that question is flawed. Maybe a better question would be: “Why do I feel the need to have that person like me?” That question, it seems to me, would give the individual greater insight about themselves.
In my therapy practice, more often than not, there is one simple reason that the person in my chair is struggling to find answers in their lives… It simply is because they’re asking themselves the wrong questions. In fact I view my job, in great part, as helping people discover a more productive way of asking the right questions about the important things affecting their lives. Most people, at some level, already know the answers to the questions that seem to perplex them. They simply need a little coaching to identify the right questions to ask.