Sometimes I get mired down in routine day in and day out, and after some time goes by I wonder, “Man, how did I get here?” I think it’s important to set aside time each morning – or at least once a week – to ask yourself useful questions. If you take time to do some self-reflection regularly, you have much more control over your life and the direction you’re heading – and you’re doing it all consciously.
If you start this new habit (or if you’re already doing it), make sure you’re asking useful questions. A few examples of useless questions include:
- Why am I so unlucky?
- Why am I so fat?
- Why did Joe do that?
Not all “Why” questions are bad, but a lot of them are. Don’t make judgments (e.g., “Why am I so fat?). A better question is, “What is one thing I can do today that might help me to lose a few pounds?” Looking back at the past can be somewhat useful, but your focus should be on the present. For example, instead of “Why did Joe do that?”, a better question is, “When someone acts that way, how can I respond in a way where I am being true to myself?”.
If you ask yourself a question, your brain will work overtime trying to come up with answers. That’s the beauty of questions. Sometimes they come right away, and sometimes they come at odd times when you’re not even thinking of the question. But you will always come up with answers, even if they’re really far-fetched! If you ask yourself something like, “Why am I so unlucky?”, your brain will search through its extensive database and bring up all the times when something “unlucky” happened to you for you to review and to prove your point that you are, indeed, “unlucky”. If you flip it around and say “Why am I so lucky?”, I bet you’ll remember instances in your life when you were “lucky”. Ask good, useful questions.
So maybe you will have no problems coming up with several questions you can ponder every day or every week. But if you want some help, here are 17 questions you can ask yourself. Take time to ponder your answers, because sometimes the answers will come when you least expect it.
Jot down your questions and your answers somewhere – either on paper or digitally. Your answers will change over time as your life experiences, your values, and your knowledge changes. It can be helpful to look back at what you wrote 6 months or even years later to remember where you were and gauge how far you’ve come since then.
What are 2-3 Ways I can Be More Loving Today?
I’m a big fan of reading near-death experience stories. They pretty much all say that love is the most important thing in life. How can you be more loving – to yourself or to others – today? Think of 2-3 ways and implement them today.
What did I learn today and how am I going to use it?
Even when bad things happen, we can put it to good use if we reflect and learn from our experiences. Take time each day to think about what you learned today.
What if Today Was My Last Day on Earth?
Would you fill your day with the same activities? Are there people you would want to mend relationships with? Are there people or places you don’t want to spend your time on? Take steps today to do meaningful things.
What am I grateful for?
It’s easy to focus on our problems and on what has gone wrong, but you’ll be a lot happier if each day you take time to note the things you’re grateful for. Are you alive? Can you see beautiful things and move around? Do you have shelter and food to eat? There are so many things to be thankful for so take a few minutes and reflect on what they are.
If I Continue Doing What I’ve Been Doing Every Day, Where Will I Be in 1 Year or 5 Years?
Small actions repeated over time add up to big results. Are you on the path you want to be on? Take inventory of your daily actions for the past week or month. are they leading you to where you want to be in the future? If not, make changes today.
Am I Who I Want To Be?
If you died tomorrow, how would you want people to remember you? Kind? Loving? Altruistic? As a leader? Are you being the person you want to be? Do you know how other people see you? Post a question on your Facebook wall and get feedback – just say, “If you had to describe me in a few words, how would you describe me?” If you have honest people in your life, don’t be afraid to ask and get feedback. Sometimes other people see what we ourselves cannot see.
Am I Reading Often Enough?
Reading is so important. It allows you to learn and grow. You can read memoirs and know that you’re not alone. You can experience other places and times just by reading. You can avoid mistakes by reading about others who have already “been there and done that”. Are you setting aside time to read? If you’re too busy, you can listen to audiobooks while doing other activities. If you are reading, do you take notes or highlight parts so you can review the important parts later? It’s too easy to read it then forget all about it if you don’t start taking notes or making a point to go back and review what you’ve read occasionally.
When Is the Last Time I Stepped Out of My Comfort Zone?
To grow and expand and lead a phenomenal life, you have to always push past your comfort zone and experience new things, new places, and new people. When is the last time you did something that made you feel a little uncomfortable or anxious? Maybe today’s the day to do that.
How Long Has It Been Since You Committed a Random Act of Kindness for a Stranger?
When you do something to help another, you feel better about yourself. When is the last time you stepped outside your personal circle of family and friends to put a smile on a stranger’s face? There are so many people and animals who need help in this world. Go to a crowdfunding site like GofundMe, find a story or cause that touches you and reach out and help. Call your local animal shelter or nursing home or church and ask if there’s someone that could use a little help. Reach out and touch someone else’s life today.
How Much of my Daily Time Do I Use Wisely?
If you sleep 8 hours a night, you have just 16 hours to fill up in a day. How much of that time is spent wisely? Do you make time to care for yourself? Do you make time for learning/growth? How about time to spend on something you’re passionate about? It’s easy to let time get away from us, but little things add up so make sure you include meaningful activities into each day.
Do I Generally Have an Optimistic Outlook on Life or a Pessimistic One?
Research shows optimists enjoy better physical and emotional health, but optimism can be learned if you’re a pessimist. In Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman teaches an exercise he calls the ABC’s – Adversity, Belief, Consequences.
For example, say your best friend hasn’t responded to your texts (Adversity). You explain this by thinking, “I’m a bad friend. No wonder she doesn’t want to be my friend and respond” (Belief). You feel depressed all day (Consequences). Keep a diary for a few days to keep track of how you respond to adverse events. Identify the beliefs that come up in the face of adversity. Then record the consequences you felt. OInce you become aware of your knee-jerk pessimistic beliefs, you can change them by either distracting yourself when they pop up or by disputing them.
To distract yourself, when they pop up, do a thought-stopping action like yelling (in your mind), “STOP!” or snapping a rubber band on your wrist. Then consciously concentrate on something else.
Disputing your negative beliefs works a bit better. Learn how to argue with yourself. Review your belief then make a case to prove yourself wrong. Instead of believing, “I’m a terrible friend and she hates me“, argue that she might be busy, that she didn’t get your message, that she meant to respond but got distracted, or just that she really loves you and you’re a good friend. In other words, the problem isn’t permanent, pervasive, and personal; it’s temporary, specific, and external. Dispute negative beliefs by trying to find evidence that your negative belief is false. If the belief is true, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?“
Do I Live Authentically?
Oftentimes we do things or act a certain way or say things just to please other people, but we don’t “be who we are”. Living under a mask is stressful and takes its toll physically and emotionally. Have the courage to be, act, and speak as you truly are – not what other people want you to be. You are not responsible for another’s happiness – they make up their own minds on how happy they want to be. Be authentic. Shine your unique light to the world.
Do I Wake Up with Hope and Excitement for the New Day?
The first thoughts you think after waking up set the mood for the whole day. Do you wake up excited for the new possibilities of a new day? Or do you wake up bummed and depressed thinking, “Same old, same old”? Dale Carnegie said, “Each day is a new life to the wise man”. You don’t have to carry yesterday’s junk into today. Embrace the new possibilities that are waiting for you. Bring back the joy, curiosity, and wonder you used to have as a kid back into your life today.
Do I Take Time to Nurture My Relationships?
It’s easy to take things and people for granted and just assume that they’ll always be there. But relationships take time and effort to sustain. Do you invest enough time and effort into sustaining the relationships you want in your life? Have you taken steps to end those relationships that are not healthy or that always drain you? Think about something small you can do today to strengthen a relationship in your life.
Do I Make Time to Care for my Physical Body?
You hear it all the time – exercise, eat right, get enough sleep. But do you actually make time to do things that support your physical health? A lot of times, we make that our last priority. If that’s you, move it up on your priority list and do something each day to nurture your body. Take a brisk walk, try yoga or meditation, skip that junk food. Even small changes can make a big difference.
Do I Worry Too Much?
The habit of worrying can rob you of your peace and vitality. Worrying never makes anything better. Try focusing on the present moment and leave “later” until later. Ask yourself, “Is there something I can do about it?” If the answer is “No” – then don’t worry. What will be will be. If the answer is “Yes”, get to work on it and quit worrying about it. Know you’re doing everything you can to rectify the situation. Don’t worry about things you cannot control.
What Are the Things I Have Overcome in My Life?
It’s normal to feel like we can’t handle something or that we aren’t very brave, but usually it’s just not true.Everyone has taken risks, endured bad situations, and overcome personal hurdles in their lives. Sit down and make a list of all the things you’ve done that were scary or the bad situations you got through. Take a look at how brave you really are. Keep the list so you can refer to it next time you doubt yourself. The fact is you are strong, and you are brave, and you can make it through anything. If you look, you will find evidence that this is true for you.
To live your best life, take the time to reflect and evaluate your life regularly. It acts like a compass, keeping you on the right path.
What questions would you add to this list? Share in the comments below.