Falling in Love with Questions

by | Aug 1, 2023 | Blog, Living All In

I’ve not met a child who doesn’t ask a million questions. It’s natural. As children we’re curious and we soon find ourselves admonished – “stop asking so many questions” – and the ‘curious’ part of us retreats deep inside. 

Answers are the commodity of adulthood.

The problem is that answers are a dead end, they are closed doors, and life is anything but. So how do we reconcile this adult need for answers and life’s request for us to be continually curious?  The mystics say, seek thirst, not water.

The internationally recognized German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, captures this concept beautifully in this excerpt from his “Letters to a Young Poet”

“I would like to beg you, dear sir, as well as I can to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart. And to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked in rooms, or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to 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 even noticing  it, live your way into the answer.”

It’s powerful and each time I sit with it, I feel its impact more acutely.  My own journey to embrace the questions and find beauty in the unresolved aspects of my life is reflected in those words. 

Over the years, it’s brought up a few questions for me around ‘questions and answers’, like:

Why does it feel natural to seek answers?

Why is there more power in a question than the answer? 

What is the transformative power of living with unanswered questions? 

I’ve found some ‘answers’ that I hope will feed your curiosity and get you embracing more questions in your own life.

Fixed or Growth

In the face of unanswered questions we most often feel uneasy with the unknown or hurriedly seek solutions. Why? As children, we loved questions. However, the adults in our lives were, themselves, trained that ‘elders have answers’, so they are passing down what they learned. A cycle is created.

We head off to school where the myth gets more deeply ingrained – we’re rewarded for having the ‘right’ answers. We leave school and enter the workforce and society itself furthers the facade – those who have answers are celebrated, get promotions and make the news. Every bit of our training teaches us to fear the unknown and tells us that there’s nothing but discomfort and shame in uncertainty. 

The transformational ‘secret’ that’s not a secret at all is that questions are actually our path to the life we want – the passion, purpose, recognition and abundance we seek – all come when we start living the question instead of seeking the answer.

Rilke encourages us to embrace the questions, even when they seem like “locked rooms” or “books written in a foreign language”. It’s an invitation to love the questions themselves, to befriend them, and embark on an adventure of self-discovery. Why would this great poet encourage us to do that?

Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, transformed the world of psychology with her work on what she calls fixed and growth mindsets. In her research, her team found that children who were praised for how well they performed on a test (their results) got progressively less engaged and more fearful as tests and assignments got harder. Their belief that their success was based on innate ability was created/reinforced by the system. This ‘fixed’ mindset meant that their fear of failure grew along with the challenges placed before them. “I’m good because I got a good grade, I hope I can live up to that.” 

On the other hand, children who were praised for their effort (processes) and how they approached questions got progressively more engaged and excited as the tests and assignments got harder. This ‘growth mindset’ meant their talents and abilities were being developed through effort, exploration and persistence. They had control over their success. “I’m good because I tried, worked hard and explored, I can do that.”

Fixed mindsets are created by needing to know the answer. Growth mindsets are created by exploring questions.

Living the Mystery

Living with unanswered questions can be challenging, especially in this culture that values quick answers and certainty. We’re conditioned to believe that we need to have it all figured out, which is exhausting and discouraging. The good news is anyone, at any age, can shift perspective and develop the ‘growth mindset’ that allows living in the mystery. Just as the children in Dweck’s study, what might it be like to not only feel comfortable not having all the answers, but to get excited and more engaged? That is our true nature, the part of us that got stuffed away as children.

Rilke suggests that embracing life lies not in finding immediate answers but that living into the questions transforms us and reveals answers greater than we can imagine. He’s right.

The Quick Fix

A large part of the problem is that society itself discourages deep questioning. We’re expected to provide surface-level answers without disclosing the true amount of work that went into it or the struggles we faced. We glorify the ‘overnight success’ (which no one tells you took 20 years) and the market is flooded with ‘7 Steps to 10x Your Business’ and ‘Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days’. We know they don’t work because we’ve all tried them, and yet we buy them anyway because we’re only shown the surface and it ‘seems’ like everyone else has a magic pill. 

They don’t. It’s a lie. However, there’s a better way – and it’s inside YOU.

Living your questions, instead of turning to supposed instant fixes that pose as answers, fosters genuine connection with others and radical personal growth. It requires authenticity. It calls us to be honest with ourselves and others. It’s simple, and it’s not easy. It’s also well worth the effort. 

And the more you do it, the easier it gets. Just like the kids, you get more and more engaged.

When I made the choice to stop needing answers, to stop fearing the questions, I learned to fall in love with the questions – and with myself.  Questions are not barriers, they’re doorways. They don’t stymie knowledge, they provide gateways to understanding. They nurture our imagination, unlock doors, and create space for curiosity, wonder, and exploration. By shifting focus from finding quick answers to appreciating the questions themselves, we tap into a wellspring of inspiration and personal growth.

Currently we’re moving from the Age of Information to the Age of Imagination. Our planet is in information overload. You feel it, information is everywhere. Our challenge is not finding information, but sorting it, curating it. What is relevant to me in the vast amounts of data? This shift makes it even more imperative to stop seeking answers and start living questions. 

We’re being called to embrace our innate curiosity, ask thought-provoking questions, and use our imaginations. It’s an exciting time and we are the ones redefining what it means to live a purposeful and meaningful life.

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In case this is the first time we’re meeting, I’m Maren, an executive life coach, speaker, dancer, and serial entrepreneur empowering you to step into your purpose and live your most fulfilled life.

When you’re ready, here are a few ways I can help regardless of where you are on your journey to self discovery:

Book me to speak at your next event and inspire your team of high achievers to step into their purpose, master their mindset, amplify their impact, and find fulfillment.

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