It might be annoying in the moment for parents, but kids have a keen ability at pursuing a line of inquiry. If you’ve spent much time around a 5 year old you have no doubt heard them ask, why! Over and over again, they will keep asking “Why?” with an insatiable curiosity for understanding the world.
Unfortunately, as we grow up we often get discouraged from such simple and honest lines of inquiry. Instead we are encouraged to just accept the answer as it is. Or we are shamed and told to stop asking stupid questions.
As a parent on the other end of this equation now, I see two reasons we become quick to get frustrated with kids’ questions. One is that we usually don’t have a good answer or even any answer at all to their, what feels completely random, questions and this really upsets our egos. And for whatever reason, lashing out and making them feel bad is a more socially acceptable reaction than saying, “I don’t know, lets find out together!”
The second reason I’ve experienced is that it takes time to engage in these kinds of conversations with our kids. And we need to get breakfast on the table, clean up, get dressed, pack lunch and get out the door before we are too late. The constant demands on our time and attention are troublesome stressors that make it hard to slow down, stop, listen, think, converse and show up with our kids the way we really want to. Again, for whatever reason it’s more socially acceptable to be too busy to talk and shutdown conversations than it is to let go of these faulty expectations to be perfect.
Whatever the reason is, when this innate curiosity gets shutdown we start to lose the ability to sit with a hard to answer question. We want certainty, assurances, comfort. Unfortunately, those things are all smoke screens. Eventually life catches up to us, reality sets in and one way or another we are forced to face those difficult questions.
Whether life circumstances are forcing you to slow down or your innate curiosity has been sparked through inspiration, journaling is a great way to get familiar with uncomfortably hard to answer questions. And sometimes, the most powerful line of inquiry you can answer is to ask yourself the same simple yet probing question over and over again – just like a 5 year old does.
Here are three different lines of inquiry you could experiment with journaling about, each based on asking one question over and over again.
This super simple exercise requires you to ask yourself “Why?” at least five times. Just like when you were five years old! This is good if you’re working through a problem, making a hard decision or figuring out your own motivation. This exercise brings you to a deeper understanding, and offers clarity while also illustrating how things are interconnected.
Visioning a Meaningful Future
Peter Senge has a great visioning exercise in the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook that starts off with envisioning yourself 5 years from now, then describing it as though you were living that life now. What makes this powerful is when you answer the question, “And what will that bring you?” You answer that question over and over again until you get to the heart of what it is you truly want in your life. It helps you get beyond the obvious to what really matters!
Identity and Sense of Self
This one I recently learned from Rev Sean Neil-Barron. You just keep answering the question, “Who are you?” Digging deeper and deeper into your sense of identity, what makes you unique, how you relate to the world around you, and who you are…it’s a fascinating exercise that can really push you into a deeper relationship with yourself and what it means to be you in the truest sense possible instead of just staying within the identity labels you’ve worn!
Hopefully, one of these simple questions speaks to you right now. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are other simple yet powerful questions you find helpful to reflect on?
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