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The Nature of our Questions

I'm a reflective person. Perhaps you are too.

Often when I'm in a reflective mood, I like to ask myself questions.

At the time of writing this, I'm just coming off a holiday break, and I try very hard to use any break time as a reflective period.

Naturally, I asked myself a few different questions.

What I'd like to share in this post is a small observation I made about the nature of the questions I was asking myself.

Specifically, what I learned about the first word in each question and why those words matter.





Let me tell you how this actually happened.

I first wrote down four questions. Two of them were what questions, one was a how, and the final was a who.

I like to give myself a little bit of time, usually at least one night's sleep, between writing down a question and answering that question.

When I looked at the four questions after a night of sleep, I realized that none of them were why questions.

So I just added a why question to supplement the original question. Here's a simple example:

What are my values? Why are those my values?

Just in this example I'm sure you can see that there is a massive difference in the nature of each question.

Here's a summary of what I learned through this process of looking at my own questions:

  • What/Who questions: These are object-based questions. The answers to them are often the most visible. They live above the surface.

  • How questions: These are process-based questions. The answers to them are slightly less visible, although still visible. They can live above and sometimes below the surface.

  • Why questions: These are belief-based questions. The answers to them are invisible, and they always live below the surface.

Like anything, digging below the surface can be harder than simply observing what's above the surface.

Also, there is always something below the surface to be found if you're willing to look.

I find it interesting that the very process of writing down questions can itself be illuminating.

Try it.

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