ai organizations are heliotropic

Questioning Forward: What Gives You Life?

People are like plants. We grow best when we are close to what gives us life. When it comes to sunlight, the scientific term is heliotropic. The potted plants in your house will, over time, orient themselves toward wherever they are finding the light they need.

Appreciative Inquiry assumes that people ought to do the same thing. This is true on both a personal and corporate level. We can frustrate ourselves greatly by assuming that one approach must work for everyone and that if we aren’t finding joy or growth in it, the problem must be either that something’s wrong with us or that we just need to “try harder.”

I’ve heard Randy Harris say on multiple occasions that the single most important question for Spiritual Growth is: “Am I getting enough water?” The question which runs beneath that question, however, is: “What is it in my life that nourishes me?

Every organization has some things that are good about it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t exist. For there to be any ongoing life or purpose, there must also be something that is providing a source of health. The most direct route to better health is to stay closer to what gives us health. 

Here are some questions you could ask to help you discern what helps you or your organization to be healthy:

  • When I think of us at our best, what is going on? Who is there? What is happening?
  • What are the things I look forward to the most? What is it that I value so much about them?
  • When I wake up in the morning and feel like engaging life that day, what’s on my agenda?
  • When I go to sleep at night, feeling fulfilled because of how I was involved, what had I been doing? Who was I doing it with or for?
  • When is the last time I could honestly say to myself: “There’s nowhere I’d rather be, and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than where I am and what I’m doing right now”?

When it comes to personal spiritual growth, the bread and butter of what helps us grow are Scripture and prayer. You won’t have any winning strategy for growth that doesn’t involve those two aspects somehow. But in terms of how we utilize these things, there is a great variety of ways to do it.

Here are a few different ways in which people connect with God:

  • Bible Study (Individual or Group)
  • Prayer (Individual or Group, with many variations of how prayer can be approached. See Mark Thibodeaux’s book for a helpful paradigm for the different ways prayer can function.)
  • Solitude
  • Contemplation and Reflection
  • Worship
  • Fellowship
  • Fasting
  • Confession
  • Service
  • Sabbath

Each of us is wired differently, and it’s completely fine that we gravitate toward some of these more than others. If it would interest you, I have prepared a simple evaluation tool to help you sort of which of these items toward which you gravitate most naturally. When you answer the questions and tally your responses, these items will each have a score ranging between 3 and 15. If something is especially life-giving for you, even if it’s totally different than what other people around you enjoy, don’t hesitate to prioritize it. We are healthiest when we stay close to what gives us life.


Other posts about Appreciative Inquiry you may enjoy:


  1. that prayer class really helped me…. I proposed to the leader of the prayer group that we have a prayer group that meets wednesday night regularly with several leaders in case someone can’t make it…. didn’t happen… we were meeting for a while.. women were praying (I suggested that) no one had a problem with it… it was really good and heart felt… we were in a circle and I came very close to ruining my macho image many evenings.. but it stopped… could be a really good thing.

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