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5 Questions That Will Help You to Focus on What Truly Matters in 2014

“New Year’s Eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.”
Hamilton Wright Mabie

We are standing at the doorway to a new year.

So I’d like to end this year by first thanking you for all your support. Your kind words have lifted me up and pushed me forward and into action and optimism pretty much every day.

I’d also like to share a few simple questions that have helped me a lot to focus on what truly matters in the past 364 days. And I know will be just as valuable next year.

I hope these questions will be very helpful for you too during 2014.

1. Is this useful?

I have found that it is very easy to spend a lot of time on things that do not really matter much. To spend hours or days or even weeks on being angry at someone, replaying a mistake or failure in one’s mind or to dwell on something negative and feeling more and more like a victim.

You can waste a big chunk of a year on that.

So I try to ask myself this question as often as I can to question and confront my own thoughts.  To catch myself and to wake myself up when I get stuck in negative thought loops going round and round.

By doing so I suffer less. I waste less time on going round in circles. And I spend more of this very valuable resource on finding a practical solution.

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

If you get lost in what to do in your day, week and life then this question can be very helpful.

It might not always give you the answer you want, because the most important thing you can do right now is often one of the harder things you can do.

But it will help you to truly focus on the few things that matters the most in any area of your life. And if it feels too hard to get started with that then just ask yourself…

3. What is one small step I can take right now to get the ball rolling?

This is my favorite question for when I want to get started with something or if I want to get going again with something that I have let fall to the side for some reason.

Because it makes things easier. Makes them feel lighter.

This question prevents me from trying to escape into procrastination and helps me to avoid the side-effects of that such as sinking self-esteem, self-loathing and simply a lot of time being wasted on trying to hide.

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

This question does seldom deliver enjoyable answers, but it sure does snap me out of negative thinking or feeling sorry for myself.

Now, I think it is natural to sometimes feel sad or sorry for yourself for a little while. If you don’t take the time to process such natural responses to negative situations then those feelings can pop up later. And so you feel explicably sad or you might get angry or irritated at other people for no good reason.

But my experience is also that these things can go too far. It is easy in getting stuck in these disempowering thoughts for too long and let them suck the life and joy out of you.

So I like to use this question to zoom out when I feel that my perspective has become too self-centered and narrow.

And it has over the years taught me a lot about the things – that I may too often take for granted – that I can be very grateful for in my life.

5. Will this matter in 5 years? Or even 5 weeks?

This one helps me to simplify.

To let go.

To not make a mountain out of a molehill.

To find the healthier and happier perspective.

To not lose my focus and energy to crippling worries.

To find a lightness in life where I do not have to carry around 5 tons of unnecessary mental baggage.

It is a truly wonderful question.

Image by Atli Harðarson (license).

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  • Margaret January 3, 2014, 8:14 am

    Thank you, Henrik, for being such a good friend. Even though we don’t know each other, you have made my life better.


  • Anonymous January 3, 2014, 12:06 pm

    I have enjoyed yours thought & positive attitude about life. It’s useful
    those people who already joined with you.

  • Mucunguzi Alphonse January 3, 2014, 3:45 pm

    very interesting piece of work!!!

  • Jeremy January 3, 2014, 9:42 pm

    Henrik, thank you so much for the light that you provide with your blog. Something that is a priority for me in this New Year is asking myself, “what is the most important thing I can do right now?” I have a tendency to overwork myself, and by asking this question, I can ensure that my focus is in the right place and that it is guiding me towards accomplishing my goals. The older that I get, the more that I realize the importance of intentionally spending my time and using my energy. The more that I do this, the more at peace that I feel, and the more I find that I get done. Thanks again for your gift of writing; looking forward to your next post!

    - Jeremy @CYLeadership

  • Lois Bell January 3, 2014, 10:20 pm

    Thanks for your continued “words of wisdom”, Henrik. All of your emails have so many nuggets of of wisdom in them. Your shaing is greatly appreciated. May God Bless you and Happy 2014!! Lois

  • Vince January 3, 2014, 11:14 pm

    Great article Henrik! I’ve used many of these over the years and the one which really hit the spot was the issue with self pity. I’m 59 years old and have dealt with manic depression throughout life until last year when I got a Vegas Nerve Stimulator which finally did away with it. It’s taken a lot of strategies to deal and cope, but the two most powerful have been to refuse to feel sorry for myself, and rejecting the inclination to ruminate about past events. I was amazed, ashamed, and embarrassed when years ago I became aware of how much I’d grown accustomed to a constant diet of self pity which I validated through carefully scripted ruminations. I was unaware of how much damage it was doing to my life – it was a lot. But putting a stop to it took a surprisingly long time. Try this for just a day: No matter how many reasons, validated or not, you have acquired to defend your right to feel sorry for yourself, (at any level, for ANYTHING WHATSOEVER!), deny the inclination immediately with absolute and overwhelming rejection. And this is critical: You must completely stop the cascading thought and subsequent emotional pathway associated with the specific self pity event. DON’T GO DOWN THE PATH! You will likely need and want to bolster yourself by creating a carefully crafted affirmation to use each time you have to confront the self pity issue. One of my faves: ” I REALLY LIKE VALUE and there’s no value in it; I LIKE POWER and It’s disempowering – I feel more vulnerable; FEELING VULNERABLE SUCKS – Whining is unbecoming and annoying and I’M STRIVING TO BE SOMEONE WHO DESERVES TO BE ADMIRED. So: NO PITY FOR ME!” (Eventually it becomes a construct instead of words so it only takes a second to implement). You may be surprised how many back ground “self pity parties” are undermining your happiness, causing resentment, anger, pouting, ruminating and depression. I discovered more than I’d like to divulge. I still have to root out 2 or 3 a day. Then once a month I allow a 10 minute tsunami of a pity party; cry like a baby, get it out of my system, and get back to it. Pure Gold! During the darkest of my 40 years of depression, this saved my life countless times. I hope you find strength in it. Vince

  • Aracely January 4, 2014, 12:44 am

    Thank you, really a very good post and useful for every day challenges. I’ll print those questions and put them on a wall so I can see the every day. Happy new year from France and thanks again.

  • Parveen Rizvi January 4, 2014, 7:52 am

    Thank you Henrik. Your post inspires me every time. I get the motivation an enthusiasm to live a happy care free simple life.

    A Very Happy New Year
    New Month
    New Week
    Happy Every Moment of your Life

  • Håkan Samuelsson January 6, 2014, 2:33 pm

    En ny bra sida att lägga till i min läslista för varje vecka. Tack och god fortsättning Henrik

  • Alexander January 6, 2014, 7:44 pm

    Awesome! 2014 will be a great year!

  • Dee January 7, 2014, 10:18 am

    Hi there!

    Thanks of this article! One remark on it though: you’ve used one of the many quotes on the internet falsely attributed to the Buddha: http://www.fakebuddhaquotes.com/fake-buddha-quote-each-morning-we-are-born-again-what-we-do-today-is-what-matters-most/

    Don’t mean to be negative here of course, but a great quote can stand on its own ;-)

  • deborah January 7, 2014, 1:29 pm

    You’re absolutely right. It’s useless to waste time on anger or grief or feeling sorry about ourselves. We just have to take action and do what we have to do and if we don’t know already, we have to find out our purpose! New Year is the best for a great fresh start but only if we have a plan, otherwise what we want to do will remain just a wish and a hope. Self pity is the worste. We need to be the master of our lives.

  • Jeffrey Dibble January 9, 2014, 6:12 am

    Hi Henrik,

    Good points.

    This post really inspired me to be a better person in term of living a quality life in 2014.

    I especially like the point you stress about taking a small step to get moving where you’re to where you want to be? It is true when i set goals that i want to achieve in 2014.

    I am kind of pump up now to take one step at a time to move forward to my goals to become healthier and financial free in 2014 rather trying to do too many things at a go.

    Not only i didn’t achieve my goals in previous years but it was very frustrating experiences to live with. I work hard on my goals but i guess doing too many things at a go does not help me to achieve your goals. Such a time wasting and not productive at all.

    My point is focus of achieving one thing at a time far more effective than doing too many things at a time.

    Thanks Henrik for this inspiring post. Wish you a very prosperous year ahead.

  • frustrated January 9, 2014, 8:35 am

    Tx for ur tips. I need themnow more than ever!!!

  • Esmeralda January 12, 2014, 11:00 pm

    Hi Henrik,

    Today I found your blog and it is fascinating. I thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experiences, it is fantastic to find this information online and be connected with your words. I’m already thinking on how to take action for what I want to change and achieve without fear and apply your great tips. I’m very hopeful for 2014 and thank you again!
    All the best,

  • Anonymous January 19, 2014, 8:44 pm

    Hi Henrick,
    Thank you so much for your inspiring blog.
    It helps me to think and start get going. This has enlightened me especially this point in time that I don’t know what to do…God has been so good to me, He has given me this fantastic opportunity to change my life and my family’s lives for the better. All I need to do is to have the courage to continue doing it and be positive. Take that small step and then keep going…