A New Challenge for the New Year: What is your #OneQuestion19?

by | December 21, 2018 | 0 comments

It’s almost time for the annual New Year’s challenges to start coming our way on social media, on blogs and in podcasts. Powerful invitations to think back on the year that was, and think forward to the year that might be are as familiar at this time of the year as decorating the house and holiday baking. New Year’s resolutions, “best-of” lists and even invitations to choose a word to inspire us through the coming months are reminders that we do have agency in our lives and the very act of thinking about something can be an important first step to change and growth.

Last year, many of us participated in some version of a One Word Challenge—an opportunity to choose a single word that might capture our imagination, inspire us and even hold us accountable to new ways of thinking about our place in the world. It’s a tall order for a single word, isn’t it? But for those of us who take words seriously, this type of exercise is a poignant reminder of the importance of language.

I would like to add my own invitation to the conversation about how we might use this time of the year to begin to think into some new possibilities. At first glance, it might seem simple, but as you carry this invitation with you over the next couple of weeks, you might find yourself a little frustrated. I would recommend leaning into that frustration, avoiding the temptation to rest on the first thing that comes to mind. So, here is my challenge:

Design a single question that, if you were to carry it with you throughout the coming year, would result in a deeper understanding of the world around you.

Think of something about which you are really curious. Think about a challenge that you are currently having in either your personal or professional life. Consider an area of interest or a passion that you have. Reflect on local, national or global issue that has recently come to your attention. Think about an unmet goal that keeps coming returning to mind. Take some time to think deeply about whatever it is that you’re arrived at.

So, your initial reaction may be to come up with an action-oriented question—one that begins with “How might I…” or “How do I…” While these “how to” questions could lead you in directions that will lead to deeper understanding, they don’t necessarily begin there. In fact, the tendency is to bring your current knowledge and understandings to questions that start with “How do I…”

No, the challenge here is to come up with a question that invites us to set aside what we know, what we assume and the way that we usually look at the world. The challenge is to adopt a perspective of “not knowing”. As you carry your “not knowing” question with you throughout the coming months, you may just find that you are open to new possibilities, new ways of thinking and new ways of seeing.

So, what are some examples of good One Question possibilities. Here are some that have come to mind for me as I’ve tried to formulate this invitation:

What do we mean when we talk about “peace in the world”?

What makes something beautiful?

What is at the heart of passion?

How are beliefs formed? 

Why do conversations become polarized?

What do we need to thrive as human beings?

What is the meaning of a successful life?

What does it mean to flourish?

You may notice that none of these sample questions begin with you. Instead, they are broad and force you to look outwards. Trust me, as you take a longer look at some of the concepts and phenomena that are the heart of the question you choose, you will eventually return home—to you. But I can pretty well guarantee that you’re going to return to thinking about you in a substantially different way.

So, as we slide into these last weeks of 2018, why not take a different approach to looking ahead to a New Year. Why not consider joining me in a One Question challenge. We’ll grab the hashtag #onequestion19 to share our thoughts and our questions.

And stay tuned for ways that we might engage each other in conversation about our questions throughout the next few months. You never know what might happen.

Design a single question that, if you were to carry it with you throughout the coming year, would result in a deeper understanding of the world around you.




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