My English comp professor freshman year was my favorite teacher of all time. He was great at asking key questions. Twenty years later, I remember a question he asked in response to an overly simplistic essay I wrote on faith: “Could something as complex as all this really be resolved so quickly and simply?” The question caused me not only to question my overly simplistic essay but also my overly simplistic faith formulations.
Asking key questions can be transformative. Questions help us stay open, humble, and inquisitive. They are a fertilizer that feeds personal growth. This is true when it comes to the questions others ask, but it’s also true when it comes to the questions we ask ourselves. Here are 5 key questions to ask yourself each year.
1. Who is influencing me?
Your view of the world doesn’t come from within. It’s shaped in part by the people who surround you. The key question is not whether you’re being influenced by others. It’s “Who is influencing me?”. Who are the people who have the most access to you? Who is mentoring you? Do you call certain people when you need advice? Who is the first person to come to mind when you think about having the guys over to watch the game? These people will play a significant role in shaping your worldview. Choose wisely.
2. Am I being intentional about spending time with my wife and kids?Quality time doesn’t magically happen.
Sure, you may spend time with your wife or your kids, but how intentional are you? Is your time with them mostly spent in front of the TV? Maybe you’re all in the house together, but everyone is focused on a device. Quality time doesn’t magically happen. There’s something to be said for spontaneity, but when it comes to the relationships that are most important, nothing beats planning ahead to spend true quality time on them. When you look back at this time 20 years from now, what would you like to be true about how you spent your time with your family? Do that.
3. What makes me come alive right now?
Most men don’t give much thought to what they are passionate about. We spend much of our time working and doing the things that seem most urgent. Of course, sometimes this is necessary. But we also need to give attention to whatever makes us come alive. What do you believe you were made to do? Or, to quote the poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” You aren’t promised tomorrow, let alone next year. So don’t wait to discern your passions.
4. What do my checkbook and calendar say about me?
Money and time are two of our most precious resources. So if you want to know what you really love—what you’re really committed to—check your checking account and your calendar. They’ll tell you what’s most important to you. You’ve probably heard some version of this before. It’s true. Our money and time follow our loves.
5. What am I afraid of?
We’re all afraid of something. And your fear will help shape you. So be honest with yourself. If you have a hard time identifying a fear, ask your wife what she thinks it is. Sometimes the people who know us best can see traits in us that we can’t see ourselves. Once you know your fear, share it with someone you trust. When our fears lurk somewhere beneath the surface, they can feel huge and unwieldy. Dragging your fears out into the light helps you see them clearly and helps equip you to conquer them.
Sound off: What key questions would you add to this list?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are you afraid of?”