Do you remember at school how the right answer was always so important – all those exams were based on it! Then later, during working life, the emphasis on answers was often reinforced.
All this has its place but to live an inspiring life, you need to go beyond answers. It may seem a paradox, but the right sort of question has more power than an answer. It works like this.
Imagine for a moment you’re in a familiar room that has a window. If you think ‘I know what is outside that window’ you have no reason to look. Because you have the answer (you know what is there) it shuts down enquiry.
If instead you ask yourself ‘What is outside that window today?’ it raises a little curiosity. More curiosity comes if you modify the question to ‘What is interesting outside that window today?’ Now you have motivation to look.
This simple example shows how a question can stimulate the mind and provide an impetus for action. A question encourages fresh thinking and opens the door to new discoveries.
In contrast, when we believe an answer to be true there seems no point in exploring further so we miss out on future adventure. Answers can limit horizons and cause complacency.
This is particularly true when we think about ourselves. Over the years we collect all sorts of answers about who we are and we paste them into our own mental scrapbook that we think defines us. But we limit ourselves when we believe it all. We need more good questions.
A good question is enticing; it catches your attention. There is usually a positive assumption embedded in it too. You can see this in the example of ‘What is interesting outside the window today?’ - the embedded assumption is that there is something interesting outside the window today.
Sometimes a life-shaping question occurs quite naturally, such as ‘What is a good next step for my career?’ or ‘How can I deepen my relationship with X?’ (notice the embedded assumptions). You may even be aware of a question you are living right now.
Other times questions come from other people, perhaps by reading or in conversation. The best questions are the ones that resonate with you, that seem to be especially relevant now.
Here is my ‘Top 10’ to get the ball rolling:
- What am I really good at?
- What would I like in my life right now?
- How can I help other people?
- What do I like about myself?
- What do I love doing?
- What am I truly grateful for?
- How can I share my gifts with the world?
- How do I best relax?
- What would I do if I knew I would succeed?
- What means the most to me?
You can add your own questions too. Whichever question resonates with you, there’s no need to hurry for an answer. You could live with the question for a while – write it somewhere you see every day – and enjoy the unfolding possibilities!