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