It was a long time ago when I took of a philosophy of psychology course. Not quite practical, but I do remember the essence of a single story the professor read at the end of the term. I wish I could remember the author and title, because the crux of the story has stayed with me all these years.
It basically proposed that scientific (life) inquiry is more about asking the right questions than just trying to come up with the “right” answers. Haven’t you caught yourself rolling your eyes at the news of some costly governmental study that only found an answer to what you already knew as common sense? What was the question anyways?
When we ask the wrong question, we will almost always come up with the wrong answer. In one sense you can’t ask a wrong question – that is – inquiry is a process moving from what is known to what is unknown. It is rather like the game I’d play with my children on rainy days: I would hide an object in “plain sight” in the living room. After a few moments of being out of the room, my children would rush in looking for the object; as they got closer to the “hidden” object, I would encourage “you’re getting warmer… you’re getting warmer.”
In this sense, getting to the right question is getting warmer – just a little warmer. The process of refining the question is profound. Seeking the right question is integral to the scientific process; it is essential to business; and I would add – it is vital just for living life.
Today I shamelessly borrow a portion from Bob Tiede’s blog. His guest blogger, Kelley Kosow, provides the investigation into this topic based on New York Times bestselling author Debbie Ford: “Since our daily choices are what determine whether we will wind up fulfilled or frustrated, unless we make new choices, we cannot expect to create different outcomes.” This realization, as well as her desire to provide people with the inspiration, awareness, and tools to make life-changing choices, led her to write the book The Right Questions. Kosow continues:
“The Right Questions is based on the premise that your life today reflects the choices you made in the past and your future will reflect the choices you make today, and if you ask yourself the right questions you are more apt to make higher choices and consciously create a life that is in alignment to your greatest goals and dreams. Whatever you desire – whether it’s to feel great in your body, find more fulfillment in your work, rekindle the fire in your marriage or spend quality time with your children – using The Right Questions will help you get there.”
While we think about the “right questions,” I am reminded of something Thomas Merton wrote about pursing the “right ends:”
Your life is shaped by the end you live for, You are made in the image of what you desire.
This rather nudges us to more carefully consider the ends we live for, and to evaluate the quality of what we desire. I urge you to live toward the One who made you for Himself – to find the fulfillment of your desires in Him. Have you considered the wide open horizon of questioning God and the invitation to seek Him – after all, the Bible is replete with invitations to seek Him.
Asking the Right Questions:
Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future or will it keep me stuck in the past?
Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment or will it bring me short-term gratification?
Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another?
Am I looking for what’s right or am I looking for what’s wrong?
Will this choice add to my life force or will it rob me of my energy?
Will I use this situation as a catalyst to grow and evolve or will I use it to beat myself up?
Does this choice empower me or does it disempower me?
Is this an act of self-love or is it an act of self-sabotage?
Is this an act of faith or is it an act of fear?
Am I choosing from my divinity or am I choosing from my humanity?
Arriving where we Started:
May you enjoy the questioning process; may you learn to ask better questions – and face them with courage; and may you eventually find yourself as T. S. Elliot poetically put it in “Little Gidding:”
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.