How to Use Driving Questions to Shape Your Life

Asking yourself the right questions can change the direction of your life. Here's how to utilize driving questions to live a better, more fulfilling life.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #319

How do you change the direction of your entire life?

With a question.

Once upon a time, long ago, I was a computer programmer. At 12 years old, I would leap out of bed each day and work on a computer program. I got really good at programming.

Some people call this discipline.

That's nonsense.

Discipline involves whips, leather, safe words, and a wardrobe made entirely from different shades of gray.

This just required thought. My first thought upon waking was, “What program do I want to write today?” My brain’s answer was the day’s agenda. This taught me two secrets: When we ask ourselves questions, we answer them. And when we ask ourselves questions about our immediate future, the question sends our life in a certain direction.e

We All Have “Driving Questions”

In working with coaching clients, I’ve found many people have a driving question. It comes to mind in the morning, or at breaking points when it’s time to figure out what to do next. Those questions shape my clients’ lives. You have one, too. A good driving question takes your life someplace awesome and amazing, like Rivendell! A bad driving question will lead you straight into Mordor through the East Gate of Mordor. And as know, you really don’t want to go there.

Questions Have Direction

My question “What program do I want to write today?” drove my brain toward writing a computer program. Questions about what you want, need, have to, must, or should do all drive you toward something. Questions about specific places or people drive your attention to those places or people. When they move you to action, your action will be about the direction the question sets.

Here are some toward questions, which send your brain in a specific direction:

  • What book chapter can I write today?

  • How can I make more money today?

  • How can I make it to Broadway and win a Tony?

  • What do I need to finish at work today?

  • What errands need doing?

  • How do I get promoted?

Some Questions Don’t Have Direction

Toward questions move you toward things you want. When you ask “Where is the lion enclosure at the zoo?” You know the question will take you right to the big puddy tats.

Away from questions move you away from things you don’t want. You fall into the lion enclosure. The lions notice that you’re holding an entire package of Oreos, and start moving in your direction. Now, you ask an away from question. “How can I get away from the lions?” You don’t care which wall you climb, or which tree you hide in, you just want to get away. An away from question identifies a problem and motivates you to get away from it, but gives you no specific destination.

Driving questions can be away from questions:


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.