You might be thinking: Only 40 questions for a lifelong learner?! If we’re talking about making an effort throughout our entire lives, then there’s no way that only 40 questions will be remotely close to covering it all!
Or maybe, if you’re like me, you’re thinking – yikes, 40 questions are a lot to process! How about just 1 or 2?
Good news from the start – there’s no reason for you to answer all 40 questions for every situation, experience, or book that comes into your life. In fact, finding a couple that resonate with what you’re interested in is a wise approach to take.
But make sure you do that – pick a couple – because only part of the exercise is about answering the questions. The other part is about disciplining your brain.
Why Ask Questions?
Developing a mindset that continues to morph and grow and learn and change takes a fair bit of intention (yet another reason why “intentionality” is the number one trait of lifelong learners). It’s too easy to become comfortable in the opinions we’ve grown up with, the ideas that our communities reinforce, and the standard arguments we’ve heard used successfully in various situations. It’s a lot harder to engage with being uncomfortable, checking blind spots, and listening.
One way to encourage a mindset that is open to different ways of thinking is to practice consciously asking questions. We shouldn’t ask questions that are designed to threaten or provoke an argument but questions that are focused on understanding and considering. Such questions aim to understand the issues at hand as they are framed by others and consider how our own ideas and views diverge or intersect and why.
What does that look or sound like?
Well, hopefully the 40 questions in this list will get you started.
Like I said before, I don’t advise trying to ask all of them for every situation or book or experience. You’ll have a headache before the fifth one. Consider this list, and pick one or two to use for a bit.
Questions for Reading
Whether books or news articles, these questions encourage some nitty-gritty and some big-picture perspective.
- Whose perspective is missing from this story?
- How is this different from what I believe or value?
- What is the date of this study? Book publication? Research project? Etc.
- How was this information obtained?
- Why did the author choose *that* word?
- How does this movie/book/cartoon/etc. align with what I believe about God, people, and/or evil?
- What is the weakest part of this design or idea?
- For whom is this message intended and why?
- Who benefits from providing this information?
- What questions does this not answer?
Questions for Experience
These questions encourage deeper involvement with the world around us whether we’re moving through it as a consumer, parent, caretaker, traveler, activist, volunteer, etc. They direct your attention back to the intersection of what you’re learning and how you’re living.
- What do I think about that?
- How does this make me feel?
- What does *that* do and why?
- What happens next?
- If I change this detail, what does that impact?
- Is there a different way to do this?
- Can you show me how to do that?
- Where does that path/road go?
- Who was the first person to do that?
- How many people does this represent?
- What does *this* mean?
- Are there similarities between this and something else in literature, history, or culture?
- Where does this come from?
- What are the legal systems or frameworks influencing this process or challenge?
- What are the current issues surrounding this place, idea, movement etc.?
Questions for Reflection
Finally, regardless of our relationship with the many facets of life, keeping these questions in mind can lead to better understanding of the connection between ourselves and our world. In addition, these questions naturally build to more questions.
- Who has shaped my perspective the most on this topic?
- How are my views of God, people, and evil shaped?
- What can I do to improve this situation?
- What skill would I like to develop?
- How does this relate to my life?
- What can I contribute to my neighborhood?
- How can I respond to this?
- What do I want to know about this?
- What advice would I give to someone in a similar situation?
- If I believe this, in what ways does it impact how I live my life?
- What other perspectives would be helpful to seek for more information about this topic or problem?
- What part of this is knowledge and what part is wisdom? Or, what part is information and what part is information and what part is application?
- What does this person/group/etc. value?
- What does the other side of this issue think?
- Who is already an expert in this space that I could learn from or about?
There they are! 40 questions to kick-start your lifelong learner lifestyle (that’s a mouthful to say). These are the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but they’re broad enough to apply in most circumstances.
I definitely don’t walk through this list internally for every activity or book or discussion that I engage. Sometimes I follow a rabbit-trail of a completely different set of questions depending on the topic.
What do you think – are 40 questions enough for a lifelong learner? What questions would you add to this list? Do you have a habit of consciously thinking about the world around you?
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