You walk up to a door and put the wrong key in the lock. It doesnâ€™t turn. Do you then keep trying that same key over and over again?
Of course not.
Yet we do something very similar when weâ€™re seeking to gain access to important insights in life. We ask a question, find the sought-for answer barred to us . . . and yet keep asking the very same thing, hoping that with the passage of time or a change in circumstances, the understanding will somehow come.
Whatâ€™s needed to unlock the insight often isnâ€™t persistence, but the trying of a different key â€” the asking of a different question.
Rather than asking, â€œWhatâ€™s my purpose in life?â€ try asking: â€œWhat do I have a gift for?â€ (As Emerson wisely counsels: â€œThe talent is the call.â€)
Or, try changing â€œWhat do I want from life?â€ to â€œWhat is life asking of me?â€ (To paraphrase Viktor Frankl.)
Instead of asking, â€œWhy are people treating me this way?â€ ask: â€œWhat am I doing that is eliciting this treatment?â€
Switch â€œWhatâ€™s the right decision to get me where I want to be in five years?â€ with â€œWhatâ€™s the right decision, for right now?â€
Donâ€™t only ask: â€œIs this religious or philosophical premise real or true?â€ but also: â€œWhat are its fruits? Does it work?â€ Even simply, â€œIs it Beautiful?â€ (Emerson again: â€œBeauty is the pilot of the young soul.â€) And, be sure to first inquire: â€œWhat does it mean for something to be real or true, anyway?â€
These are just examples; the query you need to formulate may be unique. Just as the shape of a key and the pins of a lock must align in order for that lock to turn, for the door to swing open on the right answer, you must ask the right question.