6 Questions That Can Help You to Make 2010 a Simpler and Lighter Year

by Henrik Edberg


Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/notsogoodphotography/ / CC BY 2.0

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”
Anthony Robbins

“Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
Charles Dudley Warner

Time is limited. The amount of time each day that you are able to focus and get things done is even smaller. You have a few precious hours.
You can get things done faster by for instance setting deadlines and by batching similar tasks (like answering all your emails in a row). That works very well.

But you don’t have to stop at just improving your practical methods. You can also improve how you think about these things. Or even what you think and don’t think about.

One thing I have worked on this year is simplifying how I do things and cutting out a lot of irrelevant – or less relevant – stuff. Because if you don’t cut out and simplify you will probably never find time, energy and the necessary focus to do and enjoy what is most important to you.

So here are 6 questions I have used this year and will use next year to make my life simpler, lighter and more positive. They help me to drop trash from my mind and to drop things I don’t really have to do.

I hope you find a couple of favorites – or are reminded of a few – that will help you to do the same in 2010.

1. Who cares?

This one has become a personal favorite this year. So simple, a bit ruthless and decisive in a way that cuts out the stuff that really doesn’t matter. Because a whole lot you imagine matters really doesn’t matter that much.

So whenever you feel like delving into some nitpicking or some pettiness ask yourself this question. Or whenever you feel an overwhelming need to be right in some discussion. Or whenever someone does those things to you.

Yes, nitpicking or having to be right can give you sort of high. You feel good. But it’s a dirty high. It never lasts for long. And you just create a lot of negativity within yourself and outside of yourself in the long run.

Asking yourself “who cares?” is a way to lighten up, to not take every little thing so seriously. It is a way be more open and relaxed with yourself and the people around you. It’s simply a way to be cool about stuff and be the one who is in control of your life. Instead of getting derailed by every little detail.

Variations of this question are:

Am I taking this too seriously?
Will this matter in 5 years?

Ask them too, find a favorite or use them all.

2. What is the most important thing I can do right now?

If you are lost in what to do next in your day, week or life, ask yourself this question. The answer might not always be what you want to hear because the most important thing is often one of the harder things you want to do too.

But it can help you to check your priorities and stop you from getting lost in busy work – or Facebook or checking some inboxes/blog statistics etc. over and over during the day – and instead start tackling the big stuff.

If you don’t feel like doing something even though you know it is important, check out the article I wrote a few days ago called How to Do Something Even When You Don’t Feel Like Doing It.

3. Would I rather be right or be happy?

I touched a bit on this in the first question. But this issue deserves some space of its own because I believe it is very common in all kinds of relationships.

Right in this question means the need to judge, the need to be right while interacting with other people. It’s not just about the guy who can’t be wrong in a discussion though.

It’s about the thought that you don’t always have to be against people or things. You don’t have to exist in a “me against someone else” headspace. You don’t have to defend positions all the time or build walls. You can let go of the mentality that says “someday I’ll show them all!” that may be based in some sad stories from your youth.

You can just relax, be cool and be with people instead of being against them in some subtle or not so subtle ways.

Feeling like you are right can bring pleasure. But as I mentioned in the first question: it is a short-sighted and dirty high that creates negativity in the long run.

And beyond that mental position there is a lot more connection and happiness to be found.

4. Am I in the present moment right now?

This is one of my personal favorites.

Both because it’s very easy to slip out of the present moment and back into negative and pointless thought loops about the past/future. And because it’s very beneficial to spend pretty as much of the time in your day as possible in the now. Why? I listed 7 reasons here:

  • Improved social skills.
  • Improved creativity.
  • You appreciate your world more.
  • Stress release.
  • Less worry-warting and overthinking.
  • Openness.
  • Playfulness.

If I find I’m not in present moment I reconnect with it by for instance:

  • Belly breathing. I take belly breaths and just focus my breathing for a minute.
  • Keeping the focus on the current external surroundings for minute. For example right now, I can look out of my window and see the Christmas decorations in the house next door. I see the plant in my window that probably needs some water. I hear a clock ticking. I feel that the floor is a bit cold. I use my senses to take in the world around me right now and to reconnect with the present moment.
  • Taking action. Taking action and doing things tends to put you in the present moment a lot of the time. It works pretty well for me at least.

5. Am I detached from the results?

If you are doing something – writing, playing a sport, holding a speech etc – you can really put obstacles in your own way by being attached to a certain result.

When it’s game-time, when you are out on the court, stay unattached to the outcome. Or you will get nervous and fumble. This is for when you are out there playing. In between those times you can think about your goals and possible outcomes.

But when you play/blog/work/are having some kind of social interaction etc. be present and stay unattached to the outcome. Just focus on what is in front of you.

Things will become easier. You will feel lighter and more focused. You’ll create less inner anxiety and pressure for yourself. And you will perform better because you are focusing on what’s right in front of you and not weighing yourself down with a lot of imagined or real expectations from other people and self-created negativity.

6. Is there anyone on the planet having it worse than me right now?

When I am stuck on focusing on the negatives, when I feel like a victim and that things are against me I ask myself this question.

The answer may not result in positive thoughts, but it can sure snap you of a somewhat childish “poor, poor me…” attitude pretty quickly. I understand that I have much to be grateful for in my life.

This question changes my perspective from a narrow, self-centred one into a much wider one. It helps me to lighten up about my situation. After I have changed my perspective I usually ask another question like:

What is the hidden opportunity within this situation?

That is very helpful to keep your focus on how to solve a problem or get something good out a current situation. Rather than asking yourself “why?” over and over and thereby focusing on the negatives and making yourself feel worse and worse.

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{ 25 comments }

Michelle @ Following Your Joy December 18, 2009 at 4:41 pm

What a great compliation of the best ways to get the most out of life! The one that really hit me is “What’s the most important thing I can do right now?” So much of life excites me, and it’s easy to be distracted by all the wonderful things out there. But I find that in each moment, I must continually remind myself to pay attention and make a choice; the choice that focuses on what’s most important. It’s way too easy to get lost in the details or the distractions or the “busyness” of life. So in each moment, we must choose. Reminds me of Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning” and his teaching that the one human freedom that cannot be taken away from us is the power to choose. Good stuff! Thank you for a fantastic post.

Srinivas Rao December 18, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Wow, that was a really insightful list of questions. Very simple and to the point. I would think one way to get the best out of these questions is to print them up and put them on your wall as a constant reminder. My favorite one is probably “what’s the most important thing I can do right now”

Positively Present December 18, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Really love this post! What GREAT questions!!!

Armen Shirvanian December 18, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Hi Henrik.

“Who cares?” is right. If it is us that cares about something, that is all that matters. It will work out. On the other hand, if we don’t care as much, we can’t expect it to work out fully in our favor, as someone else cares more about it, and so it will work out more in their favor.

The point about being detached from results is good. At this time, I am detached from them, so all works out well, but at other times, I focus a bit much on them, and it is for nothing.

On the point about being right or happy, I will take being happy any day or trying to show that I am right to another person. It always works out well when I choose that one. Trying to prove rightness to everyone is a sure way to lose both.

Angela May December 18, 2009 at 7:28 pm

I love tip 5, I’m under real deadline pressure often and I find it overwhelms me and keeps me from working. I keep wanting to go back and assess how far I am from the deadline – instead of just working towards finishing it!

I haven’t been able to articulate it before, so thanks for this post, I will remember from now on to stay in the moment and detach from the results :)

aDeeb December 19, 2009 at 3:34 am

Point #6 is what I always ask myself whenever I feel down and think I can’t carry on.

Richard Shelmerdine December 19, 2009 at 11:55 am

I totally agree on the detachment to outcome. It’s so essential or your motivation fluctuates too much each day.

Boris December 20, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Henrik,
Great questions! My favourite is -Am I in the present moment right now? When we are able to live fully aware of the present moment, we are empowered.
Allt he best!

Rob December 20, 2009 at 11:22 pm

The easiest but sometimes the most difficult thing to do is learning to say no. Saying no creates a reality in others which they had not realised. This means you have to be assertive and communicate your needs in a way that is fair to both yourself and to others. Avoid getting the monkey passed onto your back at all costs!

Sibyl - alternaview December 21, 2009 at 1:29 am

Henrik: This is a great post. It is too easy to continue to run on the hamster wheel and never look up. We have to do whatever we can to have moments of clarity where we realize and understand the purpose of our life and everything else going on around us. Asking these questions you recommended will guide us in the right direction and keep our focus where it should be. Really great post.

Josten December 21, 2009 at 4:59 am

The one question that says is Does anyone else have it worse than me right now? is a question i constantly ask myself. It puts and keeps me in reality.

Nacho Jordi December 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Great reading. I love #5, I think it is a good cure against “perfection paralysis”. I myself find it very hard to practice with abilities of mine which I am proud of. But, at the same time, I remember a study that showed that the relation anxiety/productivity was a bell curve (i.e., maximum performance with intermediate anxiety). It is necessary a commitment, maybe?
I also usually practice #6. You don’t have to go to the other side of the planet, sometimes an underground trip is enough!

Rocky | R O C K O N O V A .COM December 21, 2009 at 3:21 pm

i really like the “would i rather be right or be happy question”. that has save me from some potentially challenging situations as of late!

Cory Alfers ~ Project Junto December 21, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I hope that everyone who reads this post is able to live with complete focus on the present, while working on the most important task, to accomplish their goals and purpose in life. That would make 2010 a great year!

Great post! Thanks

Ronny December 22, 2009 at 1:29 am

I write down my goals in a 2010 goals booklet. It is always in my wallet and I review it regularly. It keeps me focused on what really matters to me.

Enjoy and share,
Ronny

Henrik Edberg December 22, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Thanks for all the comments and added tips, I appreciate them all! :)

Anonymous December 23, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Hi Henrik,
Great article, and thanks for sharing your questions. I’ve linked back to this page from http://www.empowering-questions.com/updates/ – hope that’s OK.

Regards,
Andy

Janel Necole December 27, 2009 at 9:05 pm

If you had left it at question one with “Who Cares?” I would have been satisfied. I find myself asking that question all of the time, but there is so much pressure in this world to choose sides. But I think there are more important things to do each day than choosing sides. Who cares what they think or what I think or the next person? Live on. :) This was a great article, thank you.

Keriann December 29, 2009 at 2:52 am

Thanks Henrik, these are great questions everyone should ask to simplify their life and to accomplish their goals.. a few tips I’ve learnt form Brian Tracy are:

The power of “No” saying it politely and clearly so that there are no misunderstandings, keeping in mind that to do something new, you must complete or stop doing something old.

Procrastinate on tasks that are of low value so that you have more time for tasks that can make a big difference in your life and work.

Continuously review your life and work to find time to do activities that enhance the quality of your life. With work, look at your activities and identify the tasks that you could delegate or eliminate to free up more time for the work that really counts.
Thanks again for your tips, hope this was helpful

Mark Nolan December 30, 2009 at 1:48 am

Hi Henrik,

Thanks for the great list of questions. Another question that is helpful to ask when something is stressing you out is, “Will this matter to anyone a year from now, or 10 years from now?” Usually the answer is no, it will probably be a forgotten trivial matter. So why let it bother you now if soon it won’t matter or even be remembered? :-)

Keep up the good work, I really enjoy your writing.

Mark Nolan

Michelle December 31, 2009 at 5:50 am

I love number 4. Am I in the present moment right now?

This is something I need to work on. Sometimes I can get so carried away by my goals and what I am trying to achieve. I forget to enjoy right now, or what I have achieved.

Thanks

Nea | Self Improvement Saga December 31, 2009 at 9:43 am

Wow, wow, wow. What a great article. I wish I had a 3rd thumb so I could give you 3 thumbs up, Henrick. What you’ve written here is so essential to creating our own happiness and living our lives joyfully as I believe we intended to do before birth.

I wish you a wonderful, positive New Year.

Judith Siess December 31, 2009 at 5:41 pm

I also ask myself, “will the world come to an end if….?” I’ve never had a “yes” answer yet.
In other words, what is the worst that happen if I do (or do not do) this? If I can live with the consequences, I go ahead.

Torben Rick January 2, 2010 at 6:42 am

Just great :-) THANKS

Five Seed January 22, 2010 at 6:35 am

Wow – very thought-provoking! Thank you!

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