Ideas shape your life and the world you live in, from how you spend your days and nights, to where you work, and what political or social causes you support. The ideas that you hold affect every part of your being, even if you are unaware of it. Because the ideas that you hold are so fundamental to who you are and how you see and interact with the world, it is critical to wrestle with these ideas. Your ideas have consequences; you need to know if those consequences will be good or bad. Indeed, at some point, you may find that you need to question and revise the very ideas that have shaped your identity. Eventually, you will need to grapple with your answers to three critical questions: How did we get here? What is wrong with the world? How does it get fixed?
Your answers to these three questions form the core of your worldview: the way you look at and understand the world. These answers are ideas – ideas that have consequences for every aspect of your life, as well as consequences for the people around you. At some point, you must get to the heart of what you believe about yourself and the world. In short, answering these questions will help you make sense of life.
Thinking through these questions is a lot like building a house from the foundation up: each of the questions builds upon the last. Every level must be solidly constructed in order to support the next. You can’t know how the world gets fixed until you know what the problem is. And you won’t know what the problem is until you consider how we got here and what the world was like then.
How did we get here? This first question is about origins – where we came from and how we got to where we are today. Think of it as the foundation of your worldview. In order to truly understand your life and the world you live in, you must start at the beginning by considering how humans came to be and what the world was like at that time. This question helps you discover who you are and why you are here. It helps you find both value and purpose in life. Additionally, it gives you context for thinking about the next question.
What is wrong with the world? This question addresses the source of the problems that we see in our world, building upon your answer to the first question. This question acknowledges that the world is far from a perfect place. Nations go to war against nations, and people lie, steal, cheat, and murder. But why? (Going back to the origins question, you might also ask if the world has always been this way.) If you want to contribute any meaningful solutions to the problems we face in this world, you will need to know what the problem is first.
How does it get fixed? The final question builds an additional level on top of your answers to the previous questions by asking what can be done to remedy the problems in this world. Having an answer to this question gives us hope: hope that the world can become a better place and hope that enables us to continue on when difficulties in life arise. It helps us understand what we can and can’t do as individuals to improve the world.
Together, these three questions will get to the heart of many of your beliefs about yourself and the world. They expose the core ideas that form your worldview. Even if you have never thought about these questions, you probably have answers to them. You may not have ever articulated the ideas that form your answers, but the way you live your life is likely an answer in and of itself. The important thing is whether your ideas, expressed in words or deeds, are true and accurate to the world that we live in. That makes all the difference.
Check out next month’s issue for a follow-up article where I’ll propose some answers to these questions.