Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Loving and Living the Questions

 “I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them.

“And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

We are so impatient for answers and action, unnecessarily so given that many of the decisions we  contemplate are not tied to a preordained timetable.  Our impatience causes us to seek closure too quickly and to accept easily understood options too readily.  

Yes, actions speak louder than words, but haste also makes waste.  Groupthink often is now "graspthink" in which we grab for any idea from almost any source instead of doing the necessary work to create with others the right solution for us.

We need to love the questions themselves and ask questions more worthy of our contemplation.  The best questions:
  • are appropriately structured and focused for the type of thinking they are meant to evoke;
  • break free of limiting assumptions and invite more expansive thinking;
  • allow space for diverse perspectives and possibilities;
  • lead to greater clarity and meaning, as well as deeper insight;
  • stimulate discovery of unarticulated needs, aspirations, or possibilities;
  • are truly questions lacking answers instead of being statements in disguise;
  • engage the collective attention, insights, and energy of the desired stakeholders; and
  • often result in additional provocative questions being generated and explored.
And when we are in conversation with others, we would be wise to remember these simple principles suggested by Margaret Wheatley in her book, Turning to One Another:
  • We acknowledge one another as equals.
  •  We try to stay curious about one another.
  • We recognize that we need each other’s help to become better listeners.
  • We slow down so that we have time to think and reflect.
  • We remember that conversation is the natural way humans think together. 
  • We expect it to be messy at times. 
A wonderful all-purpose question that often elicits powerful thinking when posed is: What one thing, while seemingly impossible, would make a tremendous difference for you and something you care about?  I often use this conversation as a part of any session or conference I am facilitating that is using the World Cafe model to engage the community in conversation and commitments.

What questions are you loving right now?  What questions do we need to live with longer and in community conversation with others?

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