Question The Questions

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The questions we ask in life are more important than many people ever realize.  This is one of those things that I have learned in life, but that I tend to forget.  The first time I started thinking about questions was when I was about 14.  I remember seeing the saying ‘Question the Answers’ on bumper stickers and just hearing that phrase.  That’s a saying I like, but when I heard ‘Question the Questions’, something really resonated with me.  (In fact, I liked the saying so well that I used it for my email address [email protected].  I even still have this account although I don’t really use it.  Strange to think how long ago that was, before I was even a devoted Google person.)

The questions we ask can be more important than the answers. 

  • Pepsi or Coke?
  • Trump or Clinton?
  • Walmart or Target?

Who’s to say you want Pepsi or Coke at all?  Why should the choice be limited to fizzy sugar water?  Certainly nobody I talk to wants Trump or Clinton as president.  And while Walmart may be a bit cheaper, Target is always a better experience, but the question is still limiting.

Some questions can really open up the world for us.

  • If money wasn’t an issue, what would you want to spend your time doing?
  • How can you be the best friend possible?
  • What are your strengths and how can you leverage these to lead an amazing life?
  • What could you do to make your relationship as fulfilling, intimate and fun as possible?
  • How could you add value to the world through your work?

The next time in my life that I really started to learn about the power of questions was as a math tutor.  As I started to become a skilled tutor, I realized that I could walk somebody through a problem with never giving them an answer but merely leading them through a series of questions.  On some level, everybody knew the answers if they could only be guided to find them.

Appreciate Inquiry

Recently, I have again encountered a reminder about the importance of questions in the form of Appreciative Inquiry.  AI was formulated by David Cooperrider and was originally intended to apply to groups (businesses, etc.) but is just as applicable on a personal level.  It’s based on the idea of asking different questions.  Rather than asking, “How do we solve this problem?”  it’s about asking, “What is good about what we’re doing now?”, “What do we dream of for the future and how do we get there?”.

Find questions that make you excited

Finding the right question to ask can open up a whole world of opportunities.  For example, asking myself “How can I make more money?” really doesn’t inspire me or make me come up with ways to make money.  When I ask, “How can I add more value to my boss, our company and our clients?”  I am much more inspired.  I could come up with pages of ideas on how to do that and feel excited in the process.  Feeling the creativity and excitement that comes when I find the right questions to ask myself reminds me of just how important questions are.

There are places where I’ve felt kind of stuck in my life lately, or maybe better put, places where I sense I am ready to grow and to change, but I’m just not quite sure what that is going to look like yet.  I feel like I want to be doing things that I am more passionate about, but I’m not sure what it is that I want to be doing.  I want to be making more of a difference, but I’m not sure what area I want to be making a difference in.  I’m frustrated because I don’t have the answers right now.  Writing this makes me think that what I need to do is to re-examine my questions.  Maybe the right question would lead me to better answers.

I would love to have this figured out, to have the end of this story, to have some great life-changing question to end this post with.  The truth of it that I’m thinking all of this through as I write, and I don’t know what the question I’m looking for is right now.  Maybe some day I’ll have an update to this post that has it.

I feel like I should have answers to questions like, “What do I really want to do with my life?”  and “What am I REALLY passionate about?”  And while I could give some answers to these questions, I’m not totally sure about them.  I’m still trying to figure out where I am going with life.

Maybe questions like “Who do I want to be?”  or “What sort of person do I want to be?”  or “What traits do I want to develop?”  would be more useful that “What do I want to do?”  After all, there is NOTHING that prevents me from being the person that I want to be on a daily basis where as there are hurdles for doing what I want to do, like the reality check of needing to make enough money to support myself.

Maybe I could ask questions like, “What would I like to explore more?”  or  “How could I experiment more with different things to maybe help me figure out what I want to do?”  or “How can I work on overcoming fears I may have that hold me back from being more willing to go out of my comfort zone and pursue my dreams rather than playing it safe?”

Or maybe I could start with “What questions would open up life for me and inspire me to come up with answers that make me feel excited and hopeful?”  Yes, I think I like that question.

2 Responses

  1. That is a great question! I’ve found myself unable to answer the “what do I want to do?” question for a long time but when I started asking myself “what do I need to be happy?” my future started looking very different to me.

    1. I love the “what do I need to be happy?” question. Coincidentally, I just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and it’s made me think a lot about the little things that we do in our every day lives that influence our happiness.

      One thing I realize is that sometimes when I envision what I would want for my life, I realize that I already have most or all of it. I have amazing opportunities to travel, I know some really cool people and if I dream of ‘being a writer’ the truth is that there is nothing that holds me back from writing (other than not making the time to do it) and while I don’t make a living from it, the money isn’t the point of wanting to be a write anyway. Of course, there is still that desire to see growth and to experience new things and I think that’s one of those things that keeps life exciting.

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