Ask Before You Search: Finding Answers to the Big Questions

Everything I’ve written about research up to now has been related to historical research that aims to discover facts and hard evidence. In some ways that sort of research is easy; you have a clear goal and direction, and your success (i.e. the answer to your questions) is obvious. But there’s also the research that has a deeper meaning—one with muddled origins that’s about who you are and who you want to be, a search that seeks to discover meaning when you feel meaningless.

Now all that sounds very existential and nonsensical, you might argue, but those searches are the ones that really matter—it might be a search to discover your ancestry, a lost-lost relative, a friend you lost touch with, or even a job search. Maybe it’s a search to finally find the answer to life’s biggest questions; maybe it’s a search for a simple answer that has big implications for your life. Whatever it may be, that search means more to you than the just a fact-check.

So what does that mean, really? When you’re searching for the answers to life’s biggest questions where do you turn to?

If you’re like most people you look to the fastest and most convenient source of information, the internet. Perhaps Siri’s detached voice is your key to tough questions. A few words typed into the Google search bar reveals just how much we rely on the internet to answer the unanswerable questions—type in “how to” and a top search result is “how to find yourself!”

Even as we wait for the magic answer to be revealed, we know deep down that Google and the most sophisticated search tools in the world don’t have the right answers. It’s inevitable that we’ll be disappointed and we know it, yet we still reach for the quicker option instead of taking the time to search deeper. You can find amazing things online; whether it’s a resource, a network of likeminded people, information, or whatever, but all of these things can only be found if you a clear question  in the first place. The internet can’t provide all the answers, or the answer to the abstract and deep questions in our lives. It’s a collection of information, and we have to be prepared to sift through it all to find what we want, that’s why it’s essential to know what you’re looking for before you start—or at least to begin with a specific question and intention that will lead you to the right information, otherwise, we’ll get lost in a spiral of Wikipedia pages and Facebook posts and a stranger’s random blog, like mine for instance 😉 If we’re using the internet to help us solve a problem, we need to be prepared to put the disparate pieces together to create a coherent answer to our complex question.

Trust yourself to ponder your own questions before you turn to a cacophony of other people’s answers, maybe you’ll discover something, or maybe you’ll just stare at a stain on your chair for ten minutes and think of nothing, but that’s okay, better to try and fail than never discover the insides of your own mind. Pose the question to yourself first. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to looking to the internet for my solutions, and it’s hard, it’s easier to accept someone else’s advice than try out my own. But I’m trying.

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