Recently I was send a ‘chain-letter‘ through Facebook. Though I rarely look twice at these things, this one had a simple enough assignment. The ‘letter’ simply asked me to answer 15 questions about myself with the catch of having to use just one word per answer.
What surprised me was how seemingly innocent questions like “What is your favorite food‘ suddenly become quite complicated.
Simple question, hard to answer
First of all, there is not one ‘dish’ I’d that is my favorite all time. I know a few I like best right now, but is that really ‘favorite food’, or would that be the kind of food I’d rate the highest over a longer period of time. I quickly listed a few types of food I enjoy (sushi, spaghetti bolognese, quiche loirainne), arranged them in order of ‘favoriteness’ just between them (1. spaghetti bolognese, 2. quiche Lorraine, 3. sushi) and picked the the one at the top of my list.
However, It gets more ‘complex’ when you realize even adjectives are banned in the one word answer. I couldn’t even pick my favorite kind of spaghetti, it would just be spaghetti. I then realized how much I needed adjectives to express myself. Constantly creating minor nuances or perhaps trying to be too specific where simplicity is required.
Listing, prioritizing, picking
I had my mind set on completing the form (after I had been drawn in by the apparent simplicity of the initial question) so I did. In the end I actually enjoyed the results because it allowed me to quickly put some order to my thoughts, with no chance of being vague about my answers.
The simple, open-ended questions generate a number of answers quite quickly. But with the one word rule, you have to filter, prioritize and pick just one of them. Whether this is the actual answer is actually a lot less relevant than the process of quickly organizing your thoughts and comparing your options. Which in turn, is exactly what convergent thinking is all about (Wikipedia: convergence denotes the approach toward a definite value). This is the kind of thinking you need when creating some order in the results of a successful brainstorm (a type of divergent thinking) for instance.
To experience some quick convergent thinking, try the 5 questions below – they could help get a little more focus on your ambitions as well:
- What are you passionate about?
- What do you like about your current job ?
- What do you value most in life?
- Where do you want to be in 5 years?
- What is the stuff dreams are made of?
(And remember, just one word per answer )