5 Essential Questions in Life

Today I watched Dean Ryan’s speech at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s commencement. He’s right. These five questions are essential.

Wait, what?
It is an effective way to ask for clarification. Pause and think about what you are doing. Are you doing it for the right reasons? “Importance of inquiry over advocacy.” So many of us are so excited to make an impact, we forget to stop and think about what the community/students/<insert stakeholders here> need and wants. Slow down and ask with an open mind.

I wonder…?
As we move from childhood into adulthood, we tend to lose our curiosity. We think we must have a definitive answer for everything the instant we are broached with a question. This question encourages curiosity and wonderment. Take a moment and admire the world you hope to change and wonder.

Couldn’t we at least…?
This is something we use to move forward, either when we are at an impasse or if we are not sure where to go. This question can be helpful in negotiations where there isn’t alignment. It is also helpful to get a heading when you don’t know your destination. A good start to fixing a problem, or a great start to an investigation.

How can I help?
A very curious thing that was told to me once by Sister Jay: “Service is not selfless.” What she meant was our actions are not all selfless. We get something out of doing service, perhaps good feelings or recognition of good deeds, and we need to recognize that. We need to be sure our desire to help does not get in the way of helping. Be sure the help is in the manner in which the community/students/<stakeholders> need or want. “Be aware of the Savior complex. Don’t let the real pitfalls extinguish one of the most humane acts. How we help matters as much as we do help.”

What truly matters?
At the end of the day, what matters to you? To society? For students? Dive deep and ask questions to find out what is at the heart of everything: beliefs, curriculum, habits, learning outcomes, practices, etc.

Finally, there is a bonus question:
And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so…?
When choosing to live every day, ask these questions often. You will find yourself both “cherished and respected.” Lead a life of passion, and you will inevitably answer this question with, “I did.”