It has been over a month since I came out of the woods and several of the learnings from my meditation retreat have stuck with me. One was the response from my teacher upon asking how I should approach finding clarity on several personal issues I was bringing to the retreat (although the retreat itself was silent, we could write notes to the instructors and leave them on a bulletin board for them to respond to us in note form as well).
“Focus on questions, not answers” was his response. After a few minutes of exasperated head scratching, I understood what he was going for in his guidance. The retreat’s purpose was not to enter with a list full of problems you wanted solved but rather to step back and clear your mind. Sort of a systems approach as opposed to individual work items. This would allow for exposure of attachments between you and emotions or issues which could have been previously known or hidden. And when encountered, to observe these feelings and notice how they sat with you rather than immediately turn into a 10 point plan for solving or an additional item for the “to do” list.
This guidance also feels applicable to our workplace. How often do we prematurely switch to “answer mode” when we should really be spending more time validating and refining the question? Too many managers and teams mark progress by the number of answers they’ve generated rather than honing the questions they are putting forth. Let’s start giving gold stars for “best question” in addition to “best answer.”