Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Purpose of Stopping to Question

As I glance at the clock on my computer desktop and realize that I have been engaged in answering and sending emails for a solid two hours, I am confronted again with the pace of modern life. Speed. It's all so fast! One gets sucked into the vortex of speed and efficiency without notice. I feel like sometimes my day starts as if it is a twisted version of the game Hot Potato where I try to turn issues, answers, papers, and requests around so fast least they get stuck, like a hot potato, on my to-do list. Do I complete more work? Do I do better work? When I am in that frenzy to get ahead of the things coming at me via email, text messages, regular mail, fax, projects delegated to at meetings, I think I process and complete more things, but few things deeply and carefully. I know I enjoy my work less, and I find less meaning in what I do. Work becomes mindless.

What is being squeezed out of our daily rhythms is the discipline of reflection. It is through reflection that we do our best work, our fullest work, and develop our deepest thoughts. It is reflection that feeds our passions. I believe this is true for each of us, personally and professionally. We are so engaged in the busy-ness of work that we forget to ask the generative questions that help our work and our lives evolve. Reflective questions about a specific project would be what is the history of this project/event? who were the people that helped create it? what was their purpose/goal? was it successful? how has it morphed over the years? is it still serving the same purpose or a new purpose or any purpose? is it enjoyable? it is relevant to its audience today? Personally, you can apply the same type of questioning - why am I doing this? do I really enjoy it? is it well matched with my skill set or was I just available to do it? can apply my creativity and passion to a situation to make it something I enjoy more and feel proud to claim?

Warding off the urge to keep those hot potatoes away, we must stop to think. We must intentionally work to develop the discipline of reflection. It is through this reflective questioning that innovation occurs. It takes time and stillness. It takes discipline. We develop ideas and insights in the throes of reflection that alter the trajectory of lives, of our work. We become deeply connected to the meaningfulness of our lives, our work. Or, we discover that the meaningfulness is missing and changes need to be made. Without learning to stop to think and question, we become disconnected from what we do and who we are. Work and life become void.

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