Ask A Big Question

“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” ~ Gary Keller, The ONE Thing

What do you want to be, do and have in your life? In your spiritual life? Your family life? Your professional life? In your financial life? In your social life? Your intimate or romantic life? You have goals and objectives in some or all of these areas . . . perhaps other areas as well. Or do you?

Set a BIG goal.

You may not have any BIG goals that you are working towards right now. You may have small goals or steps or To Do items to check off a list, but do you have a really BIG, inspiring, motivating goal? A goal that pulls you out of your comfort zone and into learning and growth?

Gary Keller, in his best selling book, The ONE Thing, tells us that we can use the “Focusing Question” – which I included at the beginning of this article – to (1) help you discover what you want in all the facets of your life and (2) drill down to the details of what you must do to achieve them. Gary says, “It’s really a simple process: You ask a great question and then you seek out a great answer. As simple as two steps, it’s the ultimate Success Habit.” [Keller, 119]

Big or Small, Specific or Broad?

Keller tells us that there are 4 ways we can think about setting goals:

1. Big & Specific
2. Big & Broad
3. Small & Broad
4. Small & Specific
[Keller 120-122]

Let’s say, for example, someone wants to improve her physical life – to be more fit and healthy. She could ask herself one of these questions.

4. Small & Specific: “What can I do to lose 5 pounds by my birthday?”
This is a specific goal, to lose a certain amount by a certain date. But it is probably not a stretch (unless her birthday is tomorrow!) It’s not very challenging and not very inspiring.

3. Small & Broad: “What can I do to lose weight?”
This is so broad as to be nearly insignificant. I’m not sure this is a goal at all — it’s more like a question to generate ideas. You could ask yourself this (or a similar) question to begin thinking about a small goal but you’re not there yet.

2. Big & Broad: “How can I get into the best physical shape of my life?”
Now you’re starting to ask a big question. But this is still too broad to be very helpful. You need to narrow it down more.

1. Big & Specific: “How can I get into the best physical shape of my life and complete a triathlon by my next birthday?”
Here you have a goal worthy of you. It’s BIG. It’s exciting and a little scary (which is a good thing – it means you are getting pulled out of your comfort zone). It’s specific enough that you’ll know when you’ve reached it.

Ask the “Focusing Question”.

Once you have your big question, Keller tells us to plug it in to the Focusing Question. [Keller 123] “What’s the ONE Thing I can do to get into the best physical shape of my life and complete a triathlon by my next birthday such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

When you have that answer, you’ll have the 1st thing you’ll need to do. Perhaps you’ll join the YMCA where they offer triathlon training. Maybe you’ll hire a personal trainer. Could be you need to start with the “Couch to 5K” running plan. Whatever your ONE Thing turns out to be, make a start as soon as you can. Take the 1st small step on your BIG goal.

Putting it all together.

Now, pick one of the areas from the list of characteristics for a balanced life: professional, financial, physical, spiritual, intimacy, social support, family, learning & growth, home / office environment, play & fun, or overall life satisfaction. Which one could use some attention? Thinking of that area, ask yourself a Big & Specific question: How can I _________________________ ? Then plug it in to the Focusing Question and begin thinking of ways to answer that.

Asking and answering BIG questions can inspire you to set bigger goals for yourself. Using the Focusing Question can help you drill down to the specific actions you’ll take to accomplish your BIG goals. So go ahead. Ask a Big question. That’s Excelerating!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Excelerated productivity — improving efficiency and effectiveness — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life, a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.


Keller, Gary with Jay Papasan. The ONE Thing: The Suprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinay Results. Austin, TX: Bard Press, 2012


how to set goals

One Reply to “Ask A Big Question”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.