“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn
to relax and wait for the answer.”
William S. Burroughs

All of us have an “inner limit”, a point where we stop our advancement and say “that’s as far as I can go.” Our minds cannot realistically imagine certain things being possible, and so they are relegated to the realm of fantasy. Sometimes it’s things we never thought of as possible, such as becoming a multi-millionaire, and sometimes it’s things we once thought would be easy that have become a chronic struggle, such as a rewarding career or good physical health.

This inner limit is partly our comfort zone, and partly our pain zone. It is our comfort zone because it’s within the realm of what feels safe and familiar. It is our pain zone when the thing we hold back from is something we deeply want and suffer in its absence.

The inner limit comes from beliefs about who we are and what we can do. Such beliefs can be viewed as navigation tools, the same way our proprioceptors signal where we are in a room in relation to other objects. The beliefs that compose our inner limit give us a base sense of self to refer to as we encounter the world and we need them in order to orient to our environment.

Because these beliefs are so essential to our identity, trying to change them can feel very threatening to our survival mechanism. If you try to talk over your beliefs, such as by saying affirmations, you will find yourself pushing against an impenetrable inner wall and encounter anxiety as your unconscious perceives it as a life or death struggle.

There is however a very simple way to avoid this exhausting fight, and to help your beliefs evolve without struggling.

Ask questions. Your brain is a vast power source at your disposal. It will do whatever you direct it to do, but only when it feels safe. The way to preserve the feeling of safety while reaching beyond your limits is to ask questions. Questions employ the mind and give it a job, statements confront the mind and fight whatever constructs are already in place.

It’s the difference between asking, “How can it be easy?” and stating “It’s easy” when addressing a challenge. One is a conversation that proactively engages the situation, the other is an argument that ignores contrary evidence.

Useful questions are a gateway that open the mind to new perceptions and beliefs on their own. You give your mind a job and send it on a quest to find an answer. You might not immediately know the answer, but just asking a question implies that one exists and it is merely a case of solving a puzzle to figure it out. You are now giving your brain a job that engages its creativity and intellect, areas that induce the feeling of fun.

Depending on the situation it’s often better not to try to find the answer when you ask the question, but to use it as a prod to move your mind in a different direction. Simply asking how it can be easy will tune your mind to find ease in the situation, without you having to try and think of an answer which might not have obvious solutions. For example, I asked this question often when house hunting in a difficult market, and ended up effortlessly getting my dream house. I could not have planned how things came together, only prepared for them by aligning myself with the sense that it could be easy despite all rational evidence.

“How can it be easy?” is one of my favorite questions to use when addressing a difficult situation. Other excellent questions are:

How can it be fun?
What is the most useful thought I can have right now?
What is the most useful thought I can have about this difficult situation? (e.g., my relationship status, my job, my kids, etc)
What am I not seeing?

I also like “what if” questions for situations where there is no additional action to take. Asking, What if it’s easy? What if it’s fun? can help center the mind in a different direction when preparing for a job interview or other anxiety inducing task.

When you notice your mind start to spin about something in your life or the world, say, “thank you”, and ask a question from the above list. This way you acknowledge the worry and redirect your mind, as one redirects a toddler having a tantrum by introducing a game.

You don’t have to believe something will work to ask if it can, yet asking the question will lead your mind to convince itself it’s possible. This way you work with it as a friend and ally toward your dreams.