High quality questions to help you get unstuck

  • What would be ideal? (I find this to be MUCH more informative than “what do you want?” or “what would make you happy?”)
  • What one thing can I let go of such that my level of stress will be significantly reduced? 
  • Can I convert this thought or belief from shame/fear to hope/compassion? 

Dependability

Dependability is a high-ranking “soft skill” that employers, colleagues and customers desire.

When it comes to your career, there are many worthwhile investments you can make to sharpen the saw of your particular expertise. On top of this, try to cultivate a reputation for being dependable. People want to know that they can count on you, and that your word is reliable.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that so-called soft skills are not trainable. All of them are. For this particular skill, all you have to do is make sure you always do what you say.

Desires

It’s healthy to have desires, goals, and hopes for better versions of the future.  But so often we fall victim to as-soon-as syndrome, making our desires much like contracts we make with ourselves to be unhappy until we get what we want.

Defining and striving for things in line with our desires is essential.  Just be sure you’re not trading a possible future for an unmistakable now.

Negativity bias

My music has received over 50 million streams and downloads, hundreds 5-star ratings, and the kindest reviews and compliments. Yet I can recite verbatim the ruthless critique of my voice from an anonymous user 10 years ago. A decade-old review from one person.

This is negativity bias in action. We’re all susceptible to it. We too quickly forget the praise we receive and tend to highlight the cynical people and opinions.

I keep an email folder called “inspiration” where I file the kind words I’ve received from people who clearly value what I do. It helps to keep a reminder that most of the time you’re doing a stellar job.

This too shall pass

Life has ups and downs. Where you are right now, and how you feel about it, is much like a balance sheet. It’s just a snapshot of your emotional assets and liabilities for a moment in time.

The most important thing to remember is that where you are right now (physically, financially, emotionally) does not reflect what you are.

Motion and action

People confuse being busy with getting things done.  And then we confuse getting the right things done – the things that matter.  As my dad would say: “don’t confuse motion with action.”

Working long hours doing unimportant things efficiently accomplishes nothing but burning resources that could be used on important things.

Before getting busy painting rooms, make sure you’re in the right house.  Working hard on the wrong things is demotivating and takes you further from your goal.

The value of rituals

One significant cause of stress is the uneasy feeling that things are out of control. Children may or may not crave structure, but it’s certainly what they need.

Don’t discount the value of simple routines or practices like making your bed, establishing a morning routine, taking 10 quiet minutes to enjoy your coffee without multi-tasking.

As much as we want to see ourselves as spontaneous and free, there is a part of us that craves and needs structure. Rituals may be an antidote to chaos and stress.

Best and better

Dysfunctional and self-limiting beliefs can be thrust upon us by culture and society. Some beliefs feel like obvious truths because they’re so deeply conditioned.

What is your one true passion? Who says we have to pick one thing to be passionate about? Is choice A or B the best? Why does everything have to be a zero-sum contest where everyone aside from one winner is a loser?

There are no rules. You can have just one passion, but it’s possible (and probable) that you’ll have have multiple passions. Especially at different times of your life. The unattainable “best” is the enemy of multiple “betters”. 

One-question self-assessment tool

Great questions may be the most powerful tool we have for honest introspection. The most transformative questions are usually simple while being the most difficult to answer.

All of us know of people or scenarios that continue to cause us emotional pain. Blaming others (even when it’s warranted) is not helpful. It doesn’t mitigate future issues, and worse, it allows you to side-step any of the blame.

Here is the most profound question I’ve learned to force honest introspection when history repeats itself in a negative way: How am I complicit in creating the conditions that I say I don’t want?


Becoming a nicer person

One thing that keeps us from being a nicer person than we would be otherwise is our tendency to judge others.

Next time you catch yourself judging someone for their clothing, their hairstyle, interests, or hobbies, ask: Do I have similar attributes that could be judged by others? Then ask yourself the more important question: Why does this matter?

The more you train yourself to not care about the personal preferences of other people, the nicer and more relaxed you become as a person.