julie claire in new mexicoI grew up being the one who was always asking questions. I live in questions. I love questions.

One of my favorite parts of being a professional coach is asking questions.  It’s really in my job description and I find there is an art to it—finding the questions that are useful, timely and opening.

I know with every ounce of my being:  Not all questions are created equal.  Some are wild goose chases and some get you right to where you want to go. 

Some questions go “ding”.  And some don’t.

Recently on a coaching call, I asked a coaching client to draw what her life looked like in the moment.  My question was:  “How big would she draw each part of her life?  She responded by drawing some simple shapes—circles– representing different parts of her life.

What she saw was that all of the circles were the same size.  She realized she had no priorities, no sense of what was or wasn’t really important.  She turned to me and said “no wonder I’m so stressed!”


On the other hand, unhelpful questions can put you on a dead end road.  I call these the impossible questions. Impossible questions aren’t really worth your time at all.   They take you further into the mindset that created the dilemma, they bring you to more strategy and less intuition, they sometimes STOP you from any movement at all.

One example of this is when you’re absolutely exhausted, worn so thin you have no perspective at all and you find yourself asking a big life changing question like:  “Am I even good at my job? “

Whoa. Stop.  Before you start down this road.  This is what I call a time of “no evaluations allowed”–which means no evaluating questions either.

Sometimes a good question itself is more valuable than the answer.

When I was 19 on an internship in Washington D.C. (the most miserable summer of my life)  I was asked by someone I had just met—“Julie, are you happy?” To this day this questions remains as a beacon of light.  What changed my life in that moment was not the answer, but the realization that I had not been asking myself that question, no one had.

“Holy shit, how come this question has never even been in my Universe before?” This one question opened me up to a whole new slew of questions and a new beginning in life.

Qualities of a “ding” question:  

  • It gets you out of your mental loop- your stucknesss and opens up new ground.
  • The question itself is often not in the same emotional field as the problem.  “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Albert Einstein
  • It comes from a place of love, or perhaps irreverence, but definitely not from judgment.  Ask yourself if you are “with yourself” or “against yourself” as you ask the question.
  • Sitting with the question gives you as much or more than the answer.  And sometimes “I don’t know” is the most valid answer.

A good question can hang around for years, working its magic

Right now, if you were your closest friend and you were tired of hearing the same story over and over again, what question would you be willing to ask yourself?