We all have questions that require answers. We all have problems that require solutions. But how can we find the answers and solutions we need?
I believe that there is an effective way to do that. It might not be what you expect, though. It’s not about finding a better answer to your current question. Instead, it’s about finding a new question. What you should do is this:
Redefine the question
Yes, redefine the question. Instead of trying to find a better answer to your current question, find a better question. When you do that, the right answer often becomes obvious.
I once heard the story of a king in the distant past. The king had a problem: the people were desperately in need of water. So he and his advisors tried to find the solution by asking this question: “How do we bring people to the water?” This question led them to think about all the possibilities: building a better road, providing better transportation and so on. None of them worked, though.
The problem remained until one day they redefined the question to “How do we bring water to the people?” Now, the answer became obvious! Build an aqueduct. Problem solved.
There is another example in Think Like a Freak. This time it’s about the International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
In 2001, someone named Takeru Kobayashi joined the contest for the first time. Surprisingly, this newcomer won the contest and broke the world record.
Even more surprising was the margin of his new record. At that time, the world record was 25 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes. Guess how many hot dogs and buns he ate. 27? 30?
No, it was 50. He did nothing less than doubling the world record.
How did he do that?
It all came down to asking a different question from everybody else. The others came to the contest with the obvious question in mind: “How do I eat more hot dogs?” Kobayashi, however, had a different question in mind: “How do I make hot dogs easier to eat?”
This question led him to a creative solution: he removed the dog from the bun and dunked the bun in his water cup before eating it. That made it much easier to eat. And the result? He doubled the world record!
As you can see, asking a different question can open the way to solutions that never came to your mind before.
So, whatever problem you are facing, try to redefine the question. Be creative in finding a good question, not answer.
Here are some examples of redefining questions.
Before: How do I make more friends?
After: How do I make myself more friendly?
Before: How do I read more books?
After: How do I make books more enjoyable to read?
Before: How do I spend less money?
After: How do I decrease my wants?
As you can see, the new questions can help you think in a new way.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What questions do you have in mind and how would you redefine them? Feel free to share them in the comments.
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