2 min read

Good at rationalizing poor behavior? Learn to ask better questions.

In school, one of my greatest strengths was rationalizing.

I was really good at answering essay questions. I could get away with not knowing the “correct” answer, as long as i can defend my answer.

When I joined the real world, I thought… Business only deals with reality. The real world will judge me according to my results, not my intelligent reasoning.

My cleverness is now useless.

So I decided henceforth, I am going to be the “hustler” type, and declared my intelligence unproductive.

But I realized the “good at rationalizing in school” is useless because the questions — What effect did X event cause? Why did Y die? or whatever — were unproductive.

We learned to ask unproductive questions too:

“Why does this always happen to me?”
“Why the hell is that fucker getting in my way?”
“Why am I always making dumb mistakes?”

But no one’s giving us tests and asking us unproductive questions now… Why not put our rationalizing brains to our advantage by asking ourselves better questions?

Questions like:

  • What is great about this problem?
  • What is not perfect yet?
  • What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
  • What am I willing to no longer do in order to make it the way I want it?
  • How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want it?

[Source: “Problem-solving questions” from Awaken the Giant Within : How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!]

Yes, those questions are biased towards the positive aspects of a problem.

That’s the point.

Your brain will diligently and intelligently come up with good answers anyway, shifting your focus from negative to positive, unproductive to productive, problems to solutions.

Instead of rationalizing poor behavior, your clever answers will help you take better actions.

Yesterday, a big ass truck was making a U-turn in a small road, which became a bottleneck for me and everyone else in the intersection.

I noticed my brain shouting, “What the hell is he doing????” Very unproductive.

It puts me in an angry, unproductive state. Plus, no answer to that question would lead me to a solution.

Then I remembered “smart people should ask better questions.”

So I asked myself, “What can I learn from this?”

At first, I thought, “Nothing! What could I possibly learn from this!!!!”

Then silently, a thought came up, “Don’t be an asshole.”

Then I laughed, watched the truck finish making its U-turn, and jaunted away.

Don’t be an asshole.