Everyone wants answers, but have they really considered the question?
Below are the 5 critical questions to ask if you want more success and happiness in your life.
“Judge a man by his questions, rather than his answers.” – Voltaire
“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Ayn Rand
This week a young person asked me for some advice about a career move that he was considering. He was thinking about making a lateral move to another department of his organization and he wanted to know if I thought that his move would negatively impact his career in the long run.
I gave him the most considered opinion that I could conjure up at a moments notice. I suggested that;
- if he was feeling stagnant in his present role he should most certainly consider a move,
- adding new skills and experiences in life is rarely (maybe never) a bad thing.
But since then I have been wondering if he was even asking the right questions. Unless we ask the right questions we simply do not get the correct answers.
Since that time I have been thinking about which questions might have real impact on life. I have been pondering which questions, that if answered truthfully would point us (or me) toward a completely new way of living.
Following are five of what I think may be the larger, most important questions we can ask ourselves.
1. Why don’t you do the things you know you should? (Or stop doing the things you shouldn’t do?)
Most of us have things in life that we know we should do, but we simply don’t do them.
These may be major things, like leaving a job we dislike, breaking off a bad relationship, losing weight, starting a company, writing a book or quitting smoking. Attending to these things could have huge positive impact on our lives, but still we don’t act.
We also delay or avoid multiple smaller items, which have a funny way of growing into much bigger projects. For instance, I have been putting off cleaning out my garage for far too long. This minor task is now looking like a major chore, which, if not tended too soon will become a significant project
But the point is we all seem to have things that we should do, but don’t and I am left wondering why.
2. What are you afraid of?
Before we can overcome our fear we need to know what that fear is. Naming our fears takes away their strength.
Truth be told one of the single biggest fears for all of us is a fear of failure, which could also be expressed as a fear of looking bad to others, a fear of rejection and a fear of ridicule.
Most of the fear we feel in life is related to our ego and injuries to our ego are by no means fatal (although they may feel like it at the time).
I will let you in on a little secret; most people are far too worried about how they look to worry about how you look.
If someone goes out of their way to try and make you look bad they are usually compensating for the fact that they feel they look REALY bad and the only way they can look better is at someone else’s expense.
One of my favorite quotes about fear comes from the late, great Steve Jobs who said;
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
On the very rare occassion that I start to get worked up about something Steve’s quote reminds me that most things in life are just not that scary compared to death.
I invite you to think about the things that you are afraid of and then closely examine them.
Ask yourself two more questions;
Is what you fear truly something to be afraid of?
Is there any way that you can face your fear?
Another fantastic quote came from Nelson Mandela who said;
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
3. Is this how you really want to spend the rest of your life?
For a moment consider your career, your health, your home and your relationships and ask yourself if this is really how you want to spend the rest of your life. (Or in the case of your career how you want to spend the next 25 to 30 years.)
If the answer is no then you have to have to find a way to make change.
4. What is your true purpose?
As Victor Frankl said; “Don’t aim at success. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effects of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than one’s self.”
People can only achieve happiness and true success when they feel they are contributing to a greater good.
The nature of the greater good really doesn’t matter – it could be saving the rainforest, feeding the hungry, helping the elderly, healing the sick, serving the poor or climbing a mountain.
Being attached to a greater good gives us an increased feeling of personal value but we must be in active pursuit of that greater purpose.
5. What do you have to be grateful for right now?
We live in a world of delayed gratification and postponed happiness.
We often attach happiness to some future event; I will be happy when I get a new job, a new car, a new house or more money. The problem is that none of this is true. New possessions or accomplishments make us happy for a short time, but not for long.
As referenced below at least one study has proven that, through a process called hedonic adaptation, people who win lotteries and people who become paralyzed through an accident both return to their original states of happiness within about a year.
Brickman, P., R. Janoff-Bulman, and D. Coates. Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative? 1978.Http://pages.ucsd.edu/~nchristenfeld/Happiness_Readings_files/Class%203%20-%20Brickman%201978.pdf. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1978. Web. 28 Oct. 2014
Given that few of us experience major lottery wins or serious accidents the majority of the things we look forward to have with longing or dread have little long term effect.
Here is a great article from Wikipedia about hedonic adaptation if you are interested in further reading.
It is my opinion (supported by science) that It is a far better strategy to look for things in our lives right now that we are happy about and grateful for – chances are you have a lot of them.
The pursuit of future goals is a truly worthy task, but we all have to be realistic about their impact and learn that true happiness exists in the present, not in the future or the past.
So what about you? What are the answers you are looking for in life? Have you really thought about the questions?
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Thanks for reading