Step Back to Go Forward: The Power of Asking Questions


After you read the blog - be sure to review the Mindful Living Tips, check out the Guided Meditation and answer the prompts in the Reflect & Journal section.

Curiosity spurred by questions about life has always been a lifelong passion for me. By now, I fully acknowledge that life is a complex journey filled with unexpected twists and turns, and it’s not about control. I get it that no one has all the answers. However, one thing remains abundantly clear – the art of asking questions is the key to revealing the treasures that lie hidden within our true selves and the relationships we develop. 

I have come to realize that the most important questions are often the ones we ask, or don’t ask, ourselves. This is especially true if those questions challenge our closely held beliefs. Questions are not merely tools of curiosity but catalysts for introspection and change. By daring to ask, we open doors to self-awareness, challenge our assumptions and ultimately foster a more inclusive mindset.

It’s quite intriguing how children – who are naturally inquisitive – teach us the power of questions. They inquire about everything from the color of the sky to the reason behind their bedtime, reminding us of a time when we, too, were unafraid to seek understanding and knowledge. As adults, we often suppress our intrinsic curiosity because of societal expectations or our own self-limiting perspectives. However, embracing the art of questioning invites us to reignite that childlike wonder. 

Consider the realm of parenting. The journey from adolescence to adulthood is not only a transformative phase for children but also a challenging period for parents. As children grow, they begin to individuate – forming and asserting their own identities, independence and decision-making abilities. During this time, they might naturally gravitate toward peers, mentors and external influences, seeking guidance and validation outside the family circle. For parents, this transition can be bittersweet. Naturally, there can be an underlying sense of loss as a child who once sought their advice on small matters now seems to be charting his, her to their own path. The dynamic shifts as parents start to feel that their opinions are not being heard or acknowledged. 

In such instances, it doesn't mean they are rejecting you. Rather, it's a normal part of their growth. Instead of expressing frustration or resorting to authoritative directives, parents can approach their adult children through open communication and sharing of authentic feelings.

Whether feeling left out or unheard, a parents’ choice to step back provides a moment of detachment from immediate reactions, fostering a more objective and grounded understanding of the situation. In turn, the child, in recognizing the parent’s feelings, might reach out, ask questions and even offer insights into their behavior. 

Overall, creating a spaciousness for introspection–allows parents to understand both their feelings and the potential reasons for their child’s behavior. It tempers the instinctive need to be right or assert authority, focusing instead on strengthening our ability to empathize. From this reflective space, the act of engaging in a conversation becomes less about seeking validation and more about creating more authentic connections through seeking understanding, especially when faced with differing perspectives.

Consider a scenario where a friend, family member, or colleague is grappling with mental health issues or grieving the loss of a loved one! Posing thoughtful questions can significantly impact their experience. They can unravel layers of isolation for someone struggling making them realize that they are not alone. Inquiring about their feelings, asking them what they need, or simply offering a safe space to talk, can serve as a compassionate bridge, holding their feelings, fears and uncertainties with understanding and kindness. Rather than asserting your own viewpoint or challenging the other person’s, seeking to comprehend through asking questions presents an opportunity to step into their shoes and to view the world through their lens.

In each of these situations, the underlying principle remains consistent – change often requires a brief pause, a step back to assess, inquire, and then move forward with intention and insight. The act of asking questions is where true understanding begins to emerge.

Moving forward in this context necessitates balancing listening with talking. By listening attentively, we enrich the fabric of the relationship through a mutual exchange of thoughts, emotions, and experiences. We acknowledge the other person’s feelings and perspectives, creating a genuine interest in understanding their world. Conversely, sharing our thoughts and experiences allows us to reveal our vulnerabilities, aspirations, and authentic selves, inviting others to know us better and connect on a deeper level. This equilibrium of give-and-take allows for a reciprocal appreciation of each other’s uniqueness, thereby nurturing more robust and meaningful relationships.

Finally, although asking questions can be intimidating, overcoming the initial fear is invaluable for moving beyond surface-level thinking and delving deeper into a more nuanced understanding of the world. It compels us to step away from the comfort of accepted norms and past behaviors by confronting the uncertainties that we often overlook. By challenging our assumptions and beliefs, we not only cultivate a mindset that thrives on curiosity and adaptability but also foster compassion and empathy. So, when hesitation holds you back from asking a question, bear in mind the boundless insights that lie beyond that initial discomfort.

If you want to step back and reflect on your own life and are curious about identifying areas you might want to adjust or change, here are 10 powerful questions to ask yourself:

  1. Right now, in this very moment, what are the three words that best describe how you feel about your current place in life?

  2. What family traditions or values mean the most to you, and how can you actively nurture and uphold them in your daily life?

  3. What areas of your life are your daily actions and aspirations out of alignment with your core values?

  4. What brings you peace of mind?

  5. What truly ignites your passion?

  6. When do you feel the most happiness?

  7. How do you describe your ideal self as a friend?

  8. What triggers your fears and in what ways can you proactively address them to foster a sense of ease?

  9. Which acts of service instill in you a sense of community belonging?

  10. In which areas of your life can you demonstrate more compassion, cooperation and inclusion to cultivate more harmony?

    No matter where you find yourself in life, whether you’re revisiting your way of doing things, looking for answers, or aspiring to broaden your horizons, dedicating time for reflection and asking courageous questions can unlock the doors to newfound inspiration. Even if progress seems elusive, don't give up your quest; life has a way of surprising us and often it's in the acts of releasing our preconceived notions that we discover what we have been searching for.

    Mindful Living Tips

    Approach situations with a willingness to learn, setting aside any predetermined agendas. Asking open-ended questions, such as "What can I learn from this?" or "How does this perspective enrich my understanding?" can help cultivate a curious mindset and facilitate deeper insights.

    Practice active listening focusing more on understanding the speaker’s perspective and witnessing their emotions, rather than focusing on speaking. This way, you lay the foundation for fostering more meaningful dialogue, instead of merely imparting personal wisdom.

    Step back and ask questions, rather than trying to control every situation and outcome. This approach creates space to detach from your immediate reaction, gain a more objective understanding of the situation and strengthen the quality of the relationship.

    Allocate time regularly for self-reflection to explore your thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Through adopting regular practices such as meditation or journaling, you can develop a non-judgmental and compassionate approach towards yourself, which in turn can positively impact your interactions with others.

    Guided Meditation

    Heart of Compassion

    “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” – Benjamin Franklin