By Mariamne Paulus

Perhaps you, like I, have been practicing viewing problems as opportunities for many years now. Often in the process of discovering the opportunity, we ask ourselves questions. I have long known that when we have a question it is because we have an answer that is waiting to surface in our consciousness. But I never consciously examined the difference the question itself makes in what kind of answers we receive.

Some time ago I received an e-mail that had some very useful concepts in it.  I do not know whose ideas these were, as they were forwarded to me and had no name attached. The e-mail suggested that even if we ask a question for which we don’t really want an answer, our subconscious mind will work on finding the answer. Therefore it suggested that there are some questions we want to avoid.   

Some examples of questions to avoid are:

What’s wrong with me?

How long could this take?

What could go wrong?

How much trouble could it be?

How hard could it be?

To those I would add:

Am I nuts?

How could I make such a stupid mistake?

 The answers to these questions would only intensify our experience that a situation is a problem.  They would make it difficult to find the opportunity.

 But if we ask the right questions, the answers can be empowering.  The author Anthony Jay has been quoted as saying, “The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.”  Motivational speaker Anthony Robbins has said, “Quality questions create a quality life.  Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”   And Francis Bacon once said, “A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.”

 So what questions would be helpful when facing a problem?  Here are the suggestions from the e-mail I received.

 Is there a message for me in this experience?

What’s the gift in this situation?

What can I learn from this?

What’s the most loving thing I could do now?

What’s the most important thing for me to focus on now?

What would I do if I knew I could not fail?

What would I do if there were nothing to fear? 

I would add:

What is being asked of me in this situation?

What is my overall purpose and what response to this situation helps to fulfill that purpose?

What is my objective in this situation?  That is, what do I really want and what can I do to get what I want?

What would change if I let go of what I want?

 Other questions I have found useful, and that we have used in our Waking Dream work, are:

 What is my sense of self in this situation?

Would a different sense of self serve me better?

Is this a life theme?  If so, what purpose can I adopt to embody what I am learning from this life theme?

Do I need to be more yin?  More yang?  More balanced in the creative forces?

Are there symbols in this situation in the form of persons or objects that represent some aspect of me of which I have been unconscious?  If so, how can I integrate that aspect of self in a more conscious and empowering way?

What are my strongest feelings telling me?

What does my heart tell me?


Asking positive and creative questions will direct our subconscious minds to search for the opportunity in any problem. If we consciously monitor the internal dialogs we have with ourselves, we can direct our minds to ask questions that will help us to move forward with creative responses to the challenges of our daily lives.


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