Appreciative inquiry for appreciative living


Anchal Rath

Artist and Writer

We live with a problem-solving approach

Be it work life, be it personal life or just daily routine, we all have experienced problems. We carry on with the way things are, mindlessly, till something goes wrong. Then we try to change the difficult situation or improve performance, trying to fix what’s not working - a clear deficit-based approach.

An alternate method to live life is the strength-based approach or an affirmative approach known as appreciative inquiry that focuses on appreciating what’s already working and visualizing how things can be. Appreciative inquiry towards change and growth in life with a more positive approach, rather than simply circling out the wrongs and trying to solve it.

‘Appreciative Inquiry looks at human systems and the organizations we design as mysteries to be embraced, not problems to be solved’. – Robyn Stratton-Berkessel

What appreciative living really is

To understand it better let’s get into the literal terms – appreciate and inquire. To appreciate means to recognize the full worth of something, to value, respect or cherish. While to inquire means to investigate, look into or ask for information.

Appreciative inquiry is a life-centric change process as it involves appreciating or keeping a grateful eye towards ourselves and the world, valuing the best of ‘what is’ plus timely inquiry through envisioning ‘what might be’, dialoguing ‘what should be’ and changing with an innovative approach of ‘what will be’.

The 4-D cycle of inquiry

We present the model to implement the appreciative inquiry approach in life.

1. DISCOVER: for any area of concern, first acknowledge what you have, appreciate it while defining your strengths and capabilities, value all of it. Inquire into what is already working for you.

Start by asking yourself about the concern. For instance, if your concern is regarding losing weight, the affirmative topic can be ‘living well’. The appreciative inquiry at this stage can be ‘tell me about that one day in last month when you felt the most active, energetic’. Or ‘tell me about the day when you treated your body like a temple and how did it feel that day’. This helps focus on the positive aspect of losing weight.

2. DREAM: it involves envisioning possibilities, imagining what might be achievable. Imagine how good it could be.

Now proceed by ‘if everything goes as well as it probably could with the help of your inner strengths, where do you see yourself in next couple of months, what all will you have achieved by then?’ In this case, ‘imagine if you could adopt a healthy eating habit based on your strength of strong will, what could you look/feel like after a month?

3. DESIGN: it involves designing practical and moral frameworks that are required to bring the dream to life. Inquire how good it should be.

Here, you can inquire ‘what will it take from this point for you to achieve what you have dreamt of?’ In this case, the question can be ‘what are the prime 5 measures you should take to achieve your desired body weight?’ This step will help define the practical steps to achieve the desired vision.

4. DESTINY: it involves constructing future through novelty and action, a commitment to the changes you will create.

At last inquire ‘how exactly will I execute my vision or plan?’. In the case of losing weight it might include, what the daily diet for the week will be, what will be the exercises for specific body parts, and even how the tracking for these will be done (e.g. using a diary, consulting a nutritionist, downloading a fitness app etc.)

A total change in approach

Creating an optimistic image of the future will impact our actions in the present and that works to bring about the expected positive outcomes. Avoid dwelling on questions like ‘why always me?’, ‘why I am so unlucky?’ Focus on the right questions like ‘How else can I look at it?’, ‘What all can I achieve with my strengths and capabilities?’

A simple example of appreciative inquiry in daily life:

Instead of asking - How was your day?

Ask – What was the best thing that happened in school/ college/ office today?

In life, problems are galore. But the important thing is not to get bogged down with them. It is extremely important to keep focusing on our strengths, despite all difficulties and keep moving towards our goals.

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Discussion Board

How do you think we can implement appreciative inquiry in our life?

Abhinav Sharma
Often, we get lost in trying to solve problems like deadlines in office, relationship problems etc. In the process we lose our confidence and also forget our long-term goals. By reminding ourselves of what out strengths are, we can make sure we keep moving towards our vision and not get distracted for too long.
Rohit Chopra
Amazing article! Applying the 4-D model will help us to get to success and a positive state of mind 😀