The Power of Questions
Ancient Greek philosophers since Thales, (624?-546? B.C.) followed by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, have used questions as the driving force of philosophical inquiry… the search for rational understanding and truth.
The concepts and process of the book Optimize Your Life! by Bernie Dahl are based on the power of questions, opening with the most important question of all in your life:
“Who are you?”
It then goes on to ask nine more questions about you and your world:
•What am I doing now?
•What do I value?
•What am I good at?
•What are my passions in life?
•What is a “successful” life to me?
•What are the “toxic” forces in my life?
•What do I want to have/do/be in life?
•What is my risk tolerance?
•What do I need to do to “clean up” my life?
As you answer these basic questions, new, deeper and more personal questions will arise for you to ponder, puzzle out, write down and set about to answer, as you take that exciting adventure of The Journey Into The Self.
“Our minds, bodies, feelings, relationships
are all informed by our questions.
What you ask is who you are.
What you find depends on what you search for.
And what shapes our lives are the questions we ask,
refuse to ask, or never think of asking.”
—Sam Keen, philosopher and theologian,
from Spirituality & Health, Spring 2000
“Ask an impertinent question,
get a pertinent answer.”
—Agent Fox Mulder, The X-Files
The #1 Question
Who are You?
You are a unique product of the cosmos. No one else in the universe has your exact genetic makeup unless you are an identical twin. Even if you are an identical twin, you will still be special in matters of the mind and soul. You have been given the greatest gift of all: the gift of life. The underlying existential question is:
“What will you do with the gift of your life?”
Since the dawn of time, humans have pondered that greatest of all personal questions. The Ancient Greeks advised us to view ourselves from three vantage points: body, mind, and soul. Addressing your body type and its current status is relatively easy, for your body is exceedingly tangible and readily identified, examined, and defined. However, dealing with your mind—your intellect—is more difficult, more mystical. The challenge of defining your soul, spirit, or psyche is greater, for that world is one of pure mystery.
Take a moment and a blank sheet of paper and write down up to 100 words that describes you as an individual, sort of a brainstorming view of yourself. You can also revisit that list and rework and focus your list along the lines of your body, mind, and soul. Remember, you can always return to this list in order to expand it or even correct some of the entries.
Next you may wish to rework your list based on anything that may define you, such as favorite foods, movies, music or even your dislikes. You may include good friends or evil enemies. You may include joys as well as sorrows. Just go for it… as many sheets as you wish!
On a new sheet you can list the highlights of your life, such as your birth, early life, education, family, skills development, and achievements. Next you can list the influential people who have impacted your life, past and present.
All this list making is in preparation for a concise statement of "who you are," but before we address that, make yet another list in response some other powerful questions:
•What am I motivated by?
•What am I angered by?
•What do I like about myself?
•What do I not like about myself?
•What are my key roles in life...now?
•What are the "toxic" people/forces in my life?
•What is/are the purpose(s) of my life?
•What are my ideas of a successful life?
Once again, you can take a blank sheet of paper and create your own worksheet on which you can answer these questions and update them later.
Yes, we are asking a lot of you here! Diogenes of Sinope, who lived in a barrel, walked the streets of ancient Athens, carrying a lantern as he searched for an honest man. This process is, metaphorically, Diogenes’ lantern, providing light for you to better look honestly into your being.
Enjoy the adventure.
Next you can assemble all of this material into a complete statement, a personal inventory, answering the question:
"Who are you?"
“Knowing others is wisdom;
knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force;
mastering the self needs strength.”
—Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
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