“Never be afraid to ask questions, especially of yourself. Discovery is the mission of life.”
Educators have long known the value of the Socratic method of teaching which is named after the classical Greek philosopher Socrates. This approach is based on the belief that students seek and gain deeper understanding of concepts through thoughtful dialogue rather than memorizing information.
Several kinds of questions are used. Opening questions are used to generate further discussion at the beginning in order to elicit the main idea. Guiding questions help deepen and elaborate the discussion and responses. Closing questions are used to bring discussion to a close and to summarize one’s thoughts and to personalize one’s insights into life.
Children seem to be naturally gifted in the art of asking questions. From “Where do babies come from?” to the simple and often repeated question of “Why?” they learn about their world and about themselves by asking and asking and asking questions. More than one parent has tried and tried to help a child learn to talk only to wish they had not done such a good job when question after question start coming.
For years I have been intrigued with the way questions have informed my leadership journey. In fact, I have often shared a lecture with my own set of leadership questions which have guided me for decades, i.e. The Big Questions; The Practical Questions; and the Ultimate Questions. I keep going back to them again and again to find nourishment and direction on my personal and public leadership journey.
You can imagine my delight, then, when I came across the book Ever Wonder; Ask Questions and Live in the Answers (2008) by Kobi Yamada. “The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of the questions you ask yourself. Questions have tremendous power. If you want better answers for your life, ask better questions.”
As soon as I read those words in the introduction, I knew I would enjoy this little book. Yamada also says, “If you want to change your reality, change your focus. If you want to change your focus, change the questions you ask yourself. Questions control your focus therefore questions control your own experience of life. Thinking is nothing but the process of asking and answering questions.”
We all know the value of changing “Why me?” and “Why am I so unhappy?” and “What’s wrong with me?” to “How can I make this work?” and How can I make a difference?” and “What am I grateful for?”
Here are a few probing questions from the book: Are you the type of person with whom you would like to spend the rest of your life? Are you living a life of action or reaction? Do you have enough risks in your life to stay alive? Is it true that you have to see it to believe it, or rather, do you have to believe it before you can see it? Have you begun today what you wish to be tomorrow?
There are too many to list them all here but here are a few more: Do you realize that nothing is too good to be true? Who are “they” that hold so much power over our lives? Do you live from the inside out or the outside in? How do you want to be remembered? If you had five minutes to live, who would you call and why are you waiting?
Yamada also wisely observes, “Whatever you ask for, you will get an answer. If you want a great life, ask great questions. Questions should empower you. You should ask a question with genuine expectancy and intention. Good questions are catalysts. They are challenges, inspirations, road maps, hints of something better, calls to action and new beginnings.”
Or as Eugene Ionesco said, “It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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