For creative thinkers and problem solvers, a powerful question has always been the key to opening up exciting possibilities.

During a crisis, our minds have a tendency to narrow. We think in terms of survival. We look at options as helpful or hurtful. Our beautiful, bountiful world fades to black and white.

We have all been in this crisis for a long time and we need to find ways to open up our thinking again. It is going to take intention and commitment, but most importantly, it is going to take powerful questions.

Here are a few of my favorite questions for your consideration. These questions can be used privately in a reflective writing exercise or they can be used in a group discussion to open up dialogue with your team.

  1. What does this make possible?

This is my favorite reframing question right now. Inherent in the question is an acceptance and acknowledgment of the reality you and your team face. You are not expending energy trying to change those things which are beyond your control. You are also not trying to just move on as if nothing has happened. By asking, “What does this make possible?” you are looking at the current situation with a fresh perspective and seeing the new possibilities in it.

  1. Think about a time when you were proud of the work you accomplished [together]. What do the stories have in common?

When used individually, this can be an encouraging way to look at your career or past accomplishments to decide where you want to go in the future and to better understand what makes work meaningful to you. This is especially helpful if you were recently laid off or facing the potential of a layoff. Think back over several different examples and then try to see what those examples have in common.

When used in a group, this is a great way to find out what has worked well and been a source of pride and motivation among your team. This often leads to a conversation about shared values and can start a conversation about the type of work you want to continue as you face new challenges. 

  1. What is my hope for the people I serve [or I care about]?

When I get too in my own head and start to spiral with thoughts about not being enough or not being able to handle the current situation or anything that is internal and negative, I always find this question useful to bring me back. I often use this as a writing prompt. I will write one page about my hope for a specific client, a specific group of people who I am doing work for, or who I care about. In answering this question, I really think about the other person(s) and think about all the positive things that I want for them. It might be peace of mind, or confidence in themselves, or hope for the future. Of course, often what I want for the other person is something I also want for myself. However, I find it easier to be filled with optimism and comfort by thinking positive thoughts for others. It gets me out of my own head and puts me back in the mindset of service, which is very grounding for me. This is an especially useful exercise when you need to show up and do something for a client, customer, or friend, but you just aren’t feeling up to the task. Perhaps you are feeling stuck in worry and anxiety and having trouble getting moving. This works for me to get unstuck.

For more powerful questions for all seasons, I recommend this resource: