Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 9, Issue 36;   September 9, 2009: The Questions Not Asked

The Questions Not Asked

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Often, the path to forward progress is open and waiting, but we don't recognize it, or we convince ourselves it isn't there. Learning to see what we believe isn't there is difficult. Here are some reasons why.

We spend most of our time dealing with the most insistent issues, with the goals we've accepted, and with the questions already asked. Most of us spend very little time dealing with issues less insistent, goals unstated, or questions not asked. That things are as they are makes sense, until we question this way of setting priorities. Would we find a more important goal, a more pressing issue or a more unsettling question if we actually gave it a little thought?

Six kids on a PlayPump

Six kids on a PlayPump. PlayPumps are patented water pumps powered by children at play. Installed near schools by PlayPumps International, the PlayPump is both a water pump and a merry-go-round for children. More than one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water, which might explain why water-related diseases are the leading cause of death in the world. On average 6,000 people die of them each day, and they're responsible for 80 percent of worldwide disease. Hauling water takes 40 billion person-hours annually, and the persons involved are mostly women and girls.

In industrialized societies, clean water is so much a part of life that we give it little thought. For many, lack of clean water is unimaginable — it is a less-insistent issue. "How can we fix this?" — until recently — has been a question not asked by many. PlayPumps International has chosen to answer it. They have set a goal of installing 4,000 PlayPumps by 2010, serving 10 million people. Photo courtesy PlayPumps International.

Usually, the answer is 'Yes.' Usually, if we actually looked at where we're putting our energy, we'd put it somewhere else. Here are some reasons why we don't question our priorities more often.

Inheritance
Some goals and ways of doing things are inherited from our predecessors. We might or might not be able to change those goals, but we rarely consider whether we can. Are there any inherited goals or processes that you could change? If you don't have the power to change them, have you sought that power?
Habit
Habit determines much of what we do routinely. We travel to work in the same way, we eat the same lunches, and we socialize with the same people. How would life be different if we made different choices now and then? What new ideas might come our way?
Fear
Sometimes we avoid the issues less insistent, the goals unstated, or the questions not asked because we fear what might happen if we examined them. Taking up a new issue can feel overwhelming. Abandoning a goal of long standing can feel like failure. Asking a new, unsettling question can create chaos. But all this has happened before, and life went on, often in a better direction. Isn't fear a problem in itself?
Helplessness
Either Usually, if we actually looked
at where we're putting our
energy, we'd end up putting
it somewhere else
from past experience, or because of messages from others, or from fatigue, we conclude that the chances of progress are so slim that we don't even look at issues less insistent, or goals unstated, or questions not asked. Usually, there's at least one thing we could do — one thing that we really do have the power to change, if only we would do it. What's your one thing?
Busy-ness
We all have lots to do. Most of us feel we have no time to look for more to do. But the truth is that we don't have time not to, because looking for issues less insistent, or goals unstated, or questions not asked is the only way to be sure our priorities are right.

Some of these patterns affect you more than others. To discover which ones are your favorites, watch for missed opportunities. If you track which patterns kept you from the path to progress, you can learn which patterns affect you most. Or maybe you're just too busy for that. Go to top Top  Next issue: The Ups and Downs of American Handshakes: I  Next Issue

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