“The quality of a person’s life is determined by the quality of the questions they ask.” – Anthony Robbins
Have you read William Kamkwamba’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind? It’s a fantastic story about perseverance, and how he used ingenuity to build an electricity-generating windmill for his family’s home despite being surrounded by poverty and doubt in Africa. There are a many reasons why the book engaged me, but one of them is because I’ve also been thinking about how to build windmills.
One of the topics I daydream about is how to make every house in the U.S. a zero-sum electricity user by using solar and wind power right at the building. Now, I’m not an engineer, so a lot of the technical aspects of the question are beyond my grasp at the moment. That will have to wait for another day.
What William’s story reinforced for me, though, is the power of asking the right questions. He didn’t get stuck asking why there were so many challenges in his life; he asked himself how he could change his circumstances.
What are the wrong questions?
I think one of the biggest challenges that we face in wrestling with the climate change crisis, or really any crisis, is that we ask the wrong questions. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get stuck on the “why” questions – which are more often “why not” questions in disguise:
Why do we continue to pollute even though we know it’s ruining the environment?
Why can’t we figure out a solution?
Why bother trying?
By their nature, they are hard questions to answer; and even if you can find an answer, it tends to be self-defeating. The trick to changing your answers is to change the questions you ask. I love asking the question to ask is “how?”. By re-framing the challenge in your mind you can find possible solutions. Because when you have the answer to a “how” question, you have a tangible next step:
How do we allow every home to cleanly generate the power they need?
How do we encourage people to change their habits around energy use?
How can I make a difference?
This doesn’t mean that the answers will come easily, or that the answers you get will be easy to implement. You will find, though, that you have answers that you can take action on. Whether they center on the challenges facing our society or our own individual lives, focusing our questions on solutions instead of problems is the first step to overcoming them.
It works in your personal life, too.
Look at the obstacles that you have been facing in your life – can you flip them?
Why can’t I seem to get ahead financially?
Why am I super-busy and burned out?
Why can’t I build better relationships at work?
Look instead to answer:
How can I become more financially literate and make better decisions?
How can prioritize my time to do what’s most important to me?
How can I reach out to make stronger connections?
And just like with our environmental questions, you’ll find that the answers are much more useful!