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Reframing reality: The impact of asking the right questions


A man floating in the ocean, looking into the distance

It was one question that changed the direction of my life.


A few years ago, my Dad asked me: “Have you ever thought of yourself as an athlete?”. This was shortly after completing a successful crossing of the Cook Strait, a period when I was still relatively early in the timeline of my swimming adventures. At that point, I can safely say that I didn’t think of myself as an athlete. Although I had played sports my entire life, when I thought of the word athlete, “real” athletes like Michael Phelps, Ross Edgley, and Usain Bolt came into mind. To put myself in the same breath was out of the question.


While I initially rejected the notion of being an “athlete”, given the distance between my notion of an athlete and my identity at that time, it certainly left me thinking. How would an athlete train? How would an athlete recover and fuel? How would an athlete behave? Over time, I took on and wore the identity of an athlete. My entire being became one of high performance. The philosophy was not limited purely to the domain of sports. It transcended its original context. Any and every part of my life was one where I could apply the essence of the athlete.


More recently, I’ve been referred to as an elite athlete. Like an oversized pair of pants, it’s a moniker that currently feels odd and uncomfortable. But my mind casts back to the transformation that I went through that followed that one, innocuous question: “Have you ever thought of yourself as an athlete?”. If I can transform my identity to meet my ambition once, I can shift it again and, perhaps, learn to grow into a new identity.


That question that my Dad asked me was important in its content, but it’s been truly life-changing in terms of the essence of the lesson. The right question can create space between reality and perception. The greater the distance between reality and perception, the greater the capacity for growth. We can only step into an identity if we first believe it to be attainable. And we can only attain it if we first perceive it to be so. Although my external status may have been one of an “athlete”, my internal identity was not. Through the right question, I was able to bridge the gap between perception and reality.


I want to leave you today with two questions to ponder. Firstly, what question would give you permission to step into the identity or life that you desire? And secondly, how can you ask more questions of the people around you to positively challenge their self-perception?


The right question can create space to challenge your perception, and by doing so your reality. Ask good questions and your life might just change for the better.

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