Motivation logo

Questions Are More Important Than Answers – Here’s Why

Ask better questions and you'll get a better life

By Jamie JacksonPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
2
Questions Are More Important Than Answers – Here’s Why
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” – Voltaire

It is only when you stop believing you have all the answers you can start anew.

Good questions, not answers, changed my life. I didn’t need answers, questions were enough. They made me think.

Life is a series of huge questions with no answers. Questions so big they induce anxiety and wonder, such as:

  • Is there a God?
  • What is love?
  • What is right and wrong?
  • What do I want?
  • What is the purpose to life?

How we choose to think and feel about these questions is how we decide to live.

If we come up with answers, they will be personal, hard won, grappled with over time, and changeable.

Humans crave certainty like we crave refined carbohydrates. Even though we inherently know the foundations of existence are dug from uncertain soil, we still demand answers. We seek answers like a drug. But salvation won't be found in answers because for the biggest questions, there are no fixed answers.

This is what society is doing to your brain

Laughably, we have built a society that provides answers to these unanswerable questions. That’s right, answers to unanswerable questions. I can’t see how this will go wrong.

Religion provides exact details about the afterlife, politicians act with unwavering certainty, we’ve boiled love down to a binary yes or no answer.

Even with ourselves, we expect to have life’s questions solved by the time we leave school. How many young people have you met who “know” what they want to do in life, even though they’ve experienced a mere tip of the life iceberg (“lifeberg”).

Fixed answers will always is fail to solve life’s problems because they haven't been stress tested.

We grow disillusioned when we think we have it all worked out and then things are still hard. And we begin to lose all faith altogether when we realise our own desires and needs shift over time.

You loved this person and now you don’t? You wanted to be a lawyer and now you don’t? You were religious and now you’re not?

It all feels like a guessing game. It’s depressing.

But what if we stopped attaching ourselves to answers, and started embracing questions?

What if we don’t need answers at all?

Be willing to do this

I attended a training course a couple of years ago. It was a five-day slog with an exam at the end. I spent the course asking questions and getting the teacher to revisit concepts.

After we sat the exam, the papers were marked there and then. I did well.

My class mates and the teacher all expressed their surprise. I was surprised too because they clearly thought I was a moron.

Why?

Because asking questions is associated with stupidity.

We have been taught for years that it’s stupid not to know. But I disagree. I say it’s normal not to know and it’s wise to ask questions.

Defaulting to the mindset of not having the answers means we’re forced to adopt a growth mindset; we strive to learn, we ponder, we analyse. Ironically, it is the lack of questions that promotes ignorance, not asking them.

Admitting we don’t know is authenticity in action.

One of the big questions that changed my life was from a mindset coach.

In one of the sessions my coach said something that triggered a landslide of thought in my mind. He asked:

“Whose standards have you been living up to?”

It was potent and piercing. It made me realise I’d been chasing money because that’s what my friends had done. It is also what society rewards and brands as “success”.

But it was not my version of success. I had been living up to the standards of other people and neglecting my own.

I didn’t need an exact answer, I just needed that question to light the touch paper of thought, and it led to a explosion of action.

How to Ask Good Questions

The formula for asking good questions is choosing those that have no fixed answer, only an answer that is right for you.

There’s no point asking yourself what your name is, but there is value in asking who you think you are.

Let go of the idea you know what you’re doing in life. No-one does, and that’s OK.

A good starting point for this exercise is to believe you’ve got a lot wrong and you need to start over.

James Clear, author of ‘Atomic Habits’ writes some good advice on this topic. He says a strategy for thinking clearly is as follows:

“Rather than trying to be right, assume you are wrong and try to be less wrong. Trying to be right has a tendency to devolve into protecting your beliefs. Trying to be less wrong has a tendency to prompt more questions and intellectual humility.” – James Clear

Start with a blank slate. Start, as Tim Ferriss suggests, with asking “What if everything I thought was wrong?”

This is about letting go of the ego so you can be inspired. Asking questions gets you out of your own way.

Shane Parish, author of the Farnam Street blog notes:

“Most people never work as hard as they do when they are trying to prove themselves right. They unconsciously hold on to the ideas and evidence that reinforce their beliefs and dismiss anything that counters. When this happens, it’s not about the best outcome, it’s about protecting your ego.” – Shane Parish

Authority should always be questioned. Your ego is an authority, ruling over your life like a despot rules over his people.

Questions shine a light on authority, on faulty thinking, negative beliefs and limiting statements such as “I can’t.”

Questions dig for truth.

It’s your life. Don’t stop digging. No-one has it all worked out. No-one can do more than act on the information to hand. Don’t put down the spade and pretend you don’t need to dig. You do. We all do.

Ask questions. Liberate yourself. Dig for victory.

--

Sign up to Vocal to write and contribute to this site.

Sign up here.

Note: This is an affiliate link and the author will receive a small one-off payment for your membership. This will cost you zero extra money.

--

Note: A version of this article was originally published on Medium.com

self help
2

About the Creator

Jamie Jackson

Between two skies and towards the night.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.