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I love thought puzzles. One might describe them as the verbal version of an M.C. Escher painting; they seem to make sense at first blush, but something is not quite right.

Play with this one:

Statement No. 1: Statement No. 2 is true.

Statement No. 2: Statement No. 1 is false.

Try and figure it out. It messes with your brain, doesn’t it?

Not quite the same, but again requiring some thought, let me put forth a theory. Do you agree that when asked a question, you have no choice but to answer it?

See what I did there. I queried and you answered, proving the theory no matter what you said. Quite likely, you didn’t answer out loud, but at the minimum your inner voice responded and demonstrated I was correct, right? (Gotcha again!) If you replied, “Yes” to the initial question, you obviously agree with the premise. Conversely, even if your response was, “No, that’s a stupid, lame idea,” it still substantiated the hypothesis because you answered the question. The only way that the notion could be proven wrong was if you blanked out after reading the question, which is obviously not the case or you wouldn’t be still reading. See, no matter how we dissect it, it rings true.

That’s because we are “hard wired” to answer questions; there is no “free will” in this venue. Upon understanding this extremely influential phenomenon, we are gifted with immense control. For example, one directs a conversation better by asking questions instead of giving statements. This explains why effective salespeople spend so much time asking questions instead of providing information that you may or may not want. Upon learning what matters, they will then deliver the answers that are appropriate, followed again by more questions (commonly referred to “closing”).

Let’s layer this up a step. If we now agree that questions are so persuasive, it stands to reason that questioning oneself appropriately is crucial to a healthy, happy, fulfilling life.

As illustration, one reason so many lose weight — and then unhappily put it back on again — is because they ask of themselves the wrong question. The most common inquiry a “dieter” asks is, “How quickly can I lose weight?” By asking that, all answers that present themselves — whether accurate or not — lead to behaviors solely designed to increase the pace of weight loss, period, end of story. The answers to that particular question are: starve yourself, follow the advice in “get thin quick” adverts (of which there are no shortage), avoid all splurges, and exercise to exhaustion; all of which require a complete reorganization of an already-busy life. Moreover, following such a restrictive and disruptive regimen is unsustainable over the long term. Therefore, if one is in the very small minority that actually succeeds in dropping the extra pounds, he finds himself lacking the tools necessary to maintain this new weight because “maintenance” wasn’t in the database of answers to the question asked. A sad follow up question arises, “Now what?”

However, if the question at the onset of one’s health regimen is “What do I need to do to lead a healthy and sustainable lifestyle for a very long time?” Then the resultant answers will be different from the previous answers. Behaviors birthed from this query lead to: find more excuses to be active, eat smaller portions and eat less often, cook and shop healthier, and learn how to deal with one’s emotions in a more supportive fashion (as emotions lead to eating).

The life we lead, to large extent, is the answer to the question, “What do I want?”

Should I find any component of my life less than desirable, asking “Why did this happen?” will be less helpful than “How do I change it so I’ll be happier and healthier for a long time?”

Any questions?

Scott “Q” Marcus is a nationally known weight loss expert for baby boomers and the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com. He is available for coaching and speaking.

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