The Power of Questions


For the past few years, I've been running an experiment with questions. Asking a new one each day - a  big, beautiful question grounded in self-compassion and designed to help me pause, get curious, and observe what is meaningful. It began it in October, 2016 as The Daily Q The idea was to invite people to press pause on the 24/7 chatter and find room for reflection. To create questions that would be catalyst for personal growth - a gateway to a more intentional relationship with ourselves. 

When you ask a new question, you take a new chance - a chance you might see things differently. The question may lead you to change your story or take you somewhere exotic and strange.  You may cross over a new threshold and become someone new. 

So what kinds of questions are you asking yourself? Warren Berger, author of "A More Beautiful Question," defines his topic as "an ambitious, yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something - and that may serve as a catalyst to bring about change."  

In this wonderfully engaging book, Berger talks about the trance we can find ourselves in when we stop asking ourselves good questions. "In our lives, in general, there’s a tendency to move along on auto-pilot when we really ought to be in the habit of regularly stepping back and questioning everything—about our career choices, about our attitudes and beliefs, about the ways we choose to live. Questioning is good for us. It can help to open up new possibilities in our lives." 

I remember waking up one day more than 10 years ago with a profoundly existential question rattling through my mind: "Why aren't you living more truly to yourself?" It was a question that shook me to the core - opening up a Pandora's box of buried fears and insecurities as I faced the daunting issue of who and how I wanted to be in the world. In pursuit of answers, I've been challenged to toss old identities, leave unsatisfying work behind, and embrace the more idiosyncratic parts of who I am.  And in listening deeply to my answers, I've found a path towards a more meaningful life. 

Asking a great question is like taking your pulse. It checks you into yourself. What's happening? How do you feel? How awake are you? Where could you use help? 

When I started The Daily Q, I hoped the Qs would spark new ideas and ways of thinking. Maybe a question would lead to an inkling that you should try something different. Lighten up on yourself.  Perhaps it would inspire you to say yes to a passion, even if you have no idea what the future of it holds. Maybe this question could expand your definition of what's possible by encouraging you to experiment in new ways.  And in answering the question, take you into the light of your personal possibility.

Not long after I asked that existential Q, I went back to school to study music composition - a chance I took despite a lifelong fear I wasn't "good enough." Along the way, I took another chance and wound up working for a film festival where I met a filmmaker whose short film I would end up supporting along its worldwide film festival tour.  It was a ride into unknown territories. I learned things I never would have known about how I see and understand story. I began to write more. I grew in my understanding of what I valued and what gave me meaning.  I evolved. 

Because sometimes when you allow yourself to go into free fall, you learn new ways to fly.

You see, most people are trapped in a story that tells them their life "is what it is." They don't see themselves as the authors of their own story. Don't see their life as having a potentially greater and more intriguing plot - they're just bobbing along the surface of life's river on an inner tube. They're not asking the beautiful questions. Not taking the chances those questions imply. 

But every time you do ask yourself a beautiful question, your life answers back and you see yourself from a new perspective. Every time you say, "what the hell," and go for it, your life gets provoked and you expand. Every time you crack yourself open by walking through an unfamiliar doorway, you see new light - you change for the better.

Back in the fall of 2016, 50 women gathered at my first X Factory to share stories around the theme "CHANCE" in all its myriad forms - second chances, and crisis chances, and chances that led to happiness and new hope.  In January of that same year,, X Factory met over the theme GIVE to share stories of giving, gifts, and gratitude. We came together to ask questions and search for the meaning and wisdom in our stories - our answers. We walked in as individuals - many of us feeling sorely disconnected from 'something greater' - and we found that connection.

I think that many of the women took authorship of their story that night. Inspired and encouraged to re-write some chapters and take new chances.  As one woman said, "Leaving X Factory, I felt I had control over my life again. I had forgotten my own power. For years I've been letting other people and circumstances dictate my happiness. I will not stand for it any longer." 

So where will you take that next chance? And what question might take you there? 

"There are beautiful and wild forces within us," said Saint Francis.  How are you letting yours shine? 


Debra Walsh