Did you know that asking yourself active questions instead of passive questions changes the focus of your answers? Active questions empower you to make changes you wouldn’t otherwise consider!
I learned about active questions from Marshall Goldsmith, an executive coach, who practices what he preaches. He teaches all of his clients and students this method of self-reflection for positive behavioral change. I am just beginning to practice this method and hope it will move me to where I need to be.
Six Questions to get you Unstuck & Set You Up for Success:
1. Did I do my best to increase my happiness today? I can find happiness in the smallest things. These small things cumulatively add up for me. Today I watched a hummingbird at my feeder. He was so tired from his long Spring migration to my place that he sat and deeply drank for a long time without moving his wings. Usually hummingbirds beat their wings at 10-15 times per second… but not this guy. I felt oddly bonded to him as I quietly watched. Another small thing: I love to grow plants in water on my window sills in clear jars and see the roots sprout and grow every day. Who knows why, but it gives me great pleasure– from succulents to tropical plants to herbs.
2. Did I do my best to find meaning today? What is meaningful for you? One thing I know for sure is that Despair = Suffering – Meaning. Viktor Frankl says in his book Man’s Search for Meaning that if people suffer but see meaning in their life, than even in their suffering, they do not despair. He himself did not despair in Auschwitz, he survived– even thrived– writing a book on scraps of paper he collected. He said, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.” For Frankl and for the rest of us– he who has a WHY can bear any HOW. Your true Purpose= Suffering (very likely) + Meaning. Below is a UTube with rare footage of Frankl:
3. Did I do my best to be fully engaged today? This can be a tough one. If you are like me, sometimes I just can’t get into gear. I have to ask myself– why? I talk about this in my book, I must first identify where my active resistance— with a capital R!– is coming from? Is it coming from my heart, am I emotionally resistant? Or is it coming from my head, is my inner critic blocking me? Or is it coming from my gut (my action center), being too lazy to act? Once I’ve identified where my resistance is coming from then I can move to rectify it… OK you inner critic, I CAN do this and I’ve done it before, so lay off already, I know what you are up to!
Sometimes its just a matter of physically REMOVING ALL DISTRACTIONS for me. I am NOT strong enough, so I close up my e-mail app until the next morning or I don’t turn the TV on to watch Netflix tonight or I set other rules. One thing I know for sure: Without rules distractions RULE!
What rules are you setting up for yourself to remove distractions? Where is your resistance coming from– your head, heart or gut?
4. Did I do my best to build positive relationships today? Who are they the right people I need to connect with today to help me get unstuck? It is said that I am the average of the 5 people that I spend my time with… I don’t know how true this is… but I do know that negative people really drain me of focus and energy. I also know that I need to hang out with other writers and read diverse works to improve my own motivation for writing.
5. Did I do my best to set clear goals today? It is true that if we don’t commit to something— then we will likely be distracted by everything. I have to ask myself– am I doing the right thing or am I just doing what is easy for me? There are different categories of goals; some are easier for us and some are harder. Career building social media tasks are easier for me to do than public service volunteering, which is one goal currently that I intentionally want to do better at.
What if you aren’t sure about what your goals are? I suggest meditating on it: Start with your head, get it de-cluttered, and quietly ask it– what does it want? Move down to your heart, sincerely ask it what will make it more happy and fulfilled? Then move down to your mighty gut and ask it– intuitively– where should you start? What should you do next as a priority?
6. Did I do my best to make progress toward goal achievement? This obviously ties directly into question 5. As human beings we must be doing something that we view as truly meaningful in order to have any emotional satisfaction (heart orientation). Reading all the major newspaper headlines daily might fulfill my “head” knowledge but it will never fulfill my “meaning” needs. Making some kind of progress daily on our goals (however minute!) is the single most important thing we can do to feel good about ourselves.
I am challenging myself to ask these questions to my head, heart and gut– each one distinctively– everyday. Would you like to join me in this challenge? How about trying this for 2 weeks and seeing how it works–or does not work–for you? Please feel free to modify the questions so that they work for you. I’d love to hear from you on how this is going!