by Shiri Rosenblat-Itzhak

It’s early Friday morning, the first lecture after the formal opening of the IPPA World Congress 2015. David Cooperrider, co-creator and creative thought leader of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), stands in front of a full room, talking about the power of the question and how AI is creating a positive revolution in the leadership of change.

And then, he brings up the question it seems every positive psychology advocate is asked: “If you were to describe positive psychology in one word, what would it be?”

Good question.

Automatically, I want to jump in with an answer, but since we’re talking about asking the right questions, I pause, take a deep breath, and reflect.

What is a powerful question?

  • It’s thought provoking and invites reflection and an investigation into deeper meaning.
  • It expands possibilities or focuses attention.
  • It stimulates curiosity and creativity.
  • It can help an individual or a group to move forward.
    According to Cooperrider, we live in a world in which our questions are being created for us. Once we change the questions, we can change our reality—and change the world.

    If you’ve read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, you might remember how a group of hyper-intelligent beings demand that a supercomputer named Deep Thought calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, which turns out to be 42. Deep Thought points out that the answer is meaningless, because the beings who instructed it never actually knew what the Question was.

    A few of my Questions are:

  • What is the world I want to live in?
  • What are the challenges that can come my way?
  • What can I do today, to plant the seed for a better tomorrow?
    Opening my mind to the many different possibilities that questions hold, I attended Rollin McCraty’s lecture about heart-brain dynamics. In his monograph titled The Coherent Heart: Heart–Brain Interactions, Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide Order, he writes:

         “As science has increasingly adopted a systems per­spective in investigation and analysis, the understanding has emerged that our mental and emotional functions stem from the activity of systems—organized pathways interconnecting different organs and areas of the brain and body—just as do any of our physiological functions. Moreover, our mental and emotional systems cannot be considered in isolation from our physiology. … Psychophysiology is concerned with the interrelations among the physiological, cognitive, and emotional systems and human behavior. It is now evident that every thought, attitude, and emotion has a physiological consequence, and that patterns of physi­ological activity continually influence our emotional experience, thought processes, and behavior.” (page 6)

    This inspires another set of questions for me:

  • What is my physical, emotional, cognitive and behavior state?
  • What should I do before making an important decision in my life?
  • What are the factors that can influence my decision-making?
    The power of the question lies in its ability to help us access a different point of view on a situation or system in our personal and professional lives. Instead of asking the same old questions and getting the same old answers, the right questions give us the opportunity to take a fresh look and tackle a challenge from a new angle. The right questions can empower our relationships and create synergy among people and within systems. Finding the right questions can put us on the path toward creating a global community, with each of us contributing toward positive change.

    So, what was David Cooperrider’s one word to describe positive psychology? It was “hope.”

    After giving it some thought, my answer would be “love.”

    Shiri Rosenblat-Itzhak, a graduate of CiPP3, studied psychology counseling at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and holds a certificate in executive coaching from New York University. She is the founder of Start-in-Point, coaching teenagers, parents, and educators using positive psychology principles. Shiri also conducts workshops on well-being, leadership, and tools for happiness. She is grateful for her family and friends, for having found her calling in life, and for reruns of “Friends”.