Sometimes when you allow yourself to go into free fall, you learn new ways to fly.
Lately, I've been running my own little experiment with questions. Asking a new one each day - a big, beautiful question that has the potential to reframe my thinking and lead me in more meaningful directions. I call it The Daily Q.
Warren Berger, author of "A More Beautiful Question," defines his topic as
"an ambitious, yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something - and that may serve as a catalyst to bring about change."
When you ask a new question, you take a new chance - a chance you might see things differently. The question may lead you to change your story or take you somewhere exotic and strange. You may cross over a new threshold and become someone new.
So what questions are you asking?
In this wonderfully engaging book, Berger talks about the trance we can find ourselves in when we stop asking ourselves good questions. "In our lives, in general, there’s a tendency to move along on auto-pilot when we really ought to be in the habit of regularly stepping back and questioning everything—about our career choices, about our attitudes and beliefs, about the ways we choose to live. Questioning is good for us. It can help to open up new possibilities in our lives."
I remember waking up one day more than 10 years ago with a profoundly existential question rattling through my mind: "Why aren't you living more truly to yourself?" It was a question that shook me to the core - opening up a Pandora's box of buried fears and insecurities as I faced the daunting issue of who and how I wanted to be in the world. In pursuit of answers, I've been challenged to toss old identities, leave unsatisfying work behind, and embrace the more idiosyncratic parts of who I am. And in the questions, I've found myself on a path towards a more meaningful life.
Asking new questions is like taking your pulse. What's happening? How do you feel? How awake are you? How alive?
Your question may lead to an inkling that you should try something different. You feel passionate about a project, and say yes, even when you have no idea what you're doing. Then, more often than not, your definition of who you are - and what you believe is possible - expands. You've walked into the dark forest of the unknown, and into the light of your personal possibility.
Not long after I asked that existential Q, I went back to school to study music composition - a chance I took despite a lifelong fear I wasn't "good enough." Along the way, I took another chance and wound up working for a film festival where I met a filmmaker whose short film I would end up supporting along its worldwide film festival tour. It was a ride into unknown territories. I met amazing people from all around the globe who believed in chasing their dreams and the power of possibility. I learned things I never would have learned about how I see and understand story. I wrote more. I grew in my understanding of what I valued and what gave me meaning. I evolved.
Because sometimes when you allow yourself to go into free fall, you learn new ways to fly.
You see, most people are trapped in a story that tells them their life "is what it is." They don't see themselves as the authors of their own story. Don't see their life as having a potentially greater and more intriguing plot - they're just bobbing along the surface of life's river on an inner tube. They're not asking the beautiful questions. Not taking the chances those questions imply.
But every time you do ask yourself a beautiful question, your life answers back and you see yourself from a new perspective. Every time you say, "what the fuck," and go for it, your life gets provoked and you expand. Every time you crack yourself open by walking through an unfamiliar doorway, you change for the better.
Back in October, 50 women gathered at X Factory to share stories around the theme "CHANCE" in all its myriad forms - second chances, and crisis chances, and chances that led to happiness and new hope. In January, X Factory met over the theme GIVE to share stories of giving, gifts, and gratitude. We came together to ask questions and search for the meaning and wisdom in our stories. We walked in as individuals - many of us feeling sorely disconnected from 'something greater' - and we found that connection.
I want to think that many of us took authorship of our story that night. Inspired and encouraged to re-write some chapters and take new chances. As one woman said, "Leaving X Factory, I felt I had control over my life again. I had forgotten my own power. For years I've been letting other people and circumstances dictate my happiness. I will not stand for it any longer."
So where will you take that next chance? And what question will you ask?
"There are beautiful and wild forces within us," said Saint Francis. How are you letting yours shine?
X Factory returns to Rhode Island on Friday, March 10 around the theme BEAUTY. We'll explore the myriad facets and frameworks of beauty and leave more connected, conscious, and compassionate about how we find and experience beauty. Want to join? Reserve a seat here. Can't wait to meet you there.