Part II in The Series: The Only Questions You Will Ever Need — -
And The “Big Idea” Questions You Should Always Ask
A Series on Reasoning
The Big Idea Questions
By Jane Tawel
If you are faced with a choice about anything and you have any inkling of doubt or indecision, you should always ask yourself these “Big Idea Questions”. If you try your best to answer these questions honestly, truthfully, humbly; and try with good intentions to set aside ego, greed, and fear, then you will find that your decision-making, while perhaps not easier, will become definitely more thoughtful, intentional, and defend-able. That is, you will be able to better answer the most important question of all time, which is always and forever, “Why?” You will also and most importantly, be better able to live with the consequences of your actions, both in terms of other people, and most importantly, in terms of yourself.
These are “Big Idea Questions”; but they can and should be used for small, even perhaps, seemingly silly things as well as the important, large, huge, even seemingly insurmountable things. In fact, it is probably a good idea to practice asking them on small issues, like, “Should I buy that facial on Groupon?”: before working your way up to a bigger issue, like, “Should I tell my boss what I think of him and then quit my day job to become a nightclub singer?”
These “Big Idea Questions” are questions you should ask when you are angst-ing, worrying, stressing, or just musing about choices. They are the questions to seriously consider when you are thinking about whether or not to stay in a relationship, but they are also questions to ask when you are contemplating whether or not to break your diet for that delicious brownie your co-worker brought you.
If you have already read Part I of this Series, “The Only Questions You Will Ever Need”, sub-titled, “The Ten Commandments of Reason — Part I”, then you will understand that the basic premise behind asking ourselves these questions before making any decision, is that all actions have consequences. I think we have done ourselves as humans a great injustice in not taking the time we need to make decisions. We all should be asking ourselves more pressing questions all the time, and taking the time truly needed for making good choices. Taking the necessary time, to honestly quiz myself, to dig deeply into the ‘why’s’ of my actions, is preferable to dealing with the consequences of choices I haven’t fully weighed. Of course, I don’t want to get bollixed up with indecision over simple choices, but I do want to consider myself worthy of taking time for myself and for making good, better, and best choices.
If you practice thinking through these questions, you will find that the journey is often just as worthy and satisfactory as the destination. Eventually, if asking yourself these questions becomes a habit, then decision-making will become not only easier, but more fulfilling.
Think of it as an equation:
Questions = Quest = Quality Decisions
And with these questions, the art of decision making will be infinitely more beneficial to your life. Dealing first with questions about our actions is infinitely desirable to having to deal later with unintended or unpleasant or irreversible consequences.
Later in this series, I am going to take each of the “Big Idea Questions” and apply them to the same five scenarios to show how they could transform, well, if not your life (which they could), at least some of your ways of thinking about problems or actions. I will also elaborate more on what the questions mean and why they mostly come in pairs that might seem to ask the same thing but when put together, don’t mean the same thing at all. But for now, here are the questions we should ask ourselves whenever we are at a crossroads in any decision making:
The Big Idea Questions
The Only Questions You Will Ever Need, And Should Always Ask
1. What have I got to lose?
2. What have I got to gain?
3. If this were the last day of my life, would I spend this amount of time doing this?
4. If someone else were doing what I am doing, what would I think about that person?
5. Why should I not do this?
6. Why should I do this?
7. After I do this, can I live at peace with my conscience?
8. After I do this, can I live at peace with the consequences?
9. Does this decision open other doors that I will want to walk through?
10. Does this decision close doors that I do not want closed to me?
And those are the Ten Questions that go along with The Ten Commandments of Reasonable Humanness.
If you have yet to read Part I and the premises of living reasonably, I hope you will. In Part III, we will look at basic, universal scenarios and apply the Big Idea Questions to them specifically. In the meantime, play around with these questions in your own life and in your decision-making today. But don’t feel pressure to make decisions you aren’t ready for. We all need to be more intentional about owning our most valuable possession, Time. Try to live with some self-awareness and a wee bit of joy while “in” the questions. Own your thoughts and practice not letting Time own you. As the great poet, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote:
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” (Rilke, “Letters to a Young Poet”)
Enjoy the journey. Live your day’s own quest. Be kind to others whose shoes you do not wear. Be kind to yourself and when you get a chance, take your shoes off and rest awhile.