To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science. Albert Einstein
Questions help us frame our thinking and define our problems. We can rarely think of an answer outside of the way we’ve framed the question, so it stands to reason that the questions we ask – particularly those we ask ourselves – will drive our thinking and our behavior.
If we’re looking to take our lives – professional, personal, spiritual, physical – to the next level, we need to change the types of questions we ask ourselves. Over the next few weeks, I’ll help you take a look at the way you speak to yourself and make some changes along the way. There are five questions you should be asking yourself to broaden your thinking and make you more successful, and five more to STOP asking yourself because of their limiting influence.
The questions I ask you over the next few weeks will help you define your path and remove obstacles that are holding you back! Whether you want to compete in an Ironman triathlon, start your own business, or find a way to move your family to the country and live in a log house you made with your own two hands, the encouragement and suggestions I provide will help you get there!
Question #1 to Ask Yourself: What Are My Highest Value Activities?
We hear only those questions for which we are in a position to find answers. Friedrich Nietzsche
It’s a common complaint among busy people: They reach the end of the day, only to realize that although they were running from project to project and crossing things off their list, they didn’t make any movement towards their largest goals.
If you can identify with this scenario, you’ve got an issue with the kind of tasks you’re undertaking. While it’s great to be busy and feel productive, it’s even more important to do the things that matter. The key to making this distinction is this question:
What are my highest value activities?
The answer to this question is going to be exclusive to you. It stems from a combination of your unique gifts, talents, and skills, and your overall goals and dreams. Marry the two, and you’ve got a list of the things that only YOU can accomplish – and these are the things that should get priority on your daily to-do list.
If you find yourself getting sidetracked by tasks that aren’t on your highest-value list, you need to find a way to extricate yourself from them. You can delegate them to someone else, hire another person to do them (like a Virtual Assistant), or just simply stop. Every minute you spend doing something “below your pay grade” is a minute you aren’t reaching your full potential. Concentrate on the tasks that you – and only you – are capable of doing, and leave the rest to someone else.
Think of it this way: If you call Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t answer the phone. He doesn’t respond to customer complaints. He doesn’t sweep the floors, order more paper for the copy machine, or make sure the cafeteria is fully stocked on coffee. He leaves those details to others, and he focuses on the projects and activities that only he can do: Visualizing the future path for Facebook. Focus works. If it’s good enough for Mark Zuckerberg, it’s good enough for you.
Question #2 to Ask Yourself: What is the one thing I could do today to move myself forward?
Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers. Tony Robbins
Sometimes we get stuck in the overwhelm of life. There are simply too many projects, too many things to do, too many people clamoring for our attention, and too much information. We aren’t at all sure on what we should do next, and so we retreat to the comparative peace and quiet of a game of Solitaire on our computer, or we check our email yet again, or we head to the refrigerator.
When we find ourselves taking the long way home to avoid dealing with the snarl that appears to be our life, we need to stop. Instead of avoiding the tumult, we need to dive in, looking for that one loose end that will unravel the mess and lead us to our goals. Sounds too easy, huh? It really is.
When you come to a stuck spot and you are baffled as to what to do next, or you are tempted to run away and hide in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, ask yourself this question:
What is the one thing I could do today to move myself forward?
Sometimes the answer is a big task – “Buy a ticket to the $1000 conference.” But most of the time, it’s something very simple: Make the phone call, buy the book, answer the email. In fact, the answer is often so simple that we’ve discounted its power, which is why we’ve been feeling lost. Just like with a knot in a rope, sometimes it just takes a bit of wiggle room to make the whole thing loosen and come free.
Remember, you’re not looking for the grand gestures or huge movements (“I need to sell my house and move to Wyoming”); you’re looking for one thing you can start and accomplish TODAY that will let you make progress. Often it’s something you knew you needed to do but were avoiding. Other times it’s something you hadn’t realized was holding up the works. In either case, identify it, write it down, and make it happen.
If all you did was ask yourself this question day after day, and then take action on the answers, you’d soon find yourself closer to your goals than you ever imagined.