“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.