In the long run, the simple questions you ask yourself on a regular basis will determine the type of person you become.
“Today, I miss who I was. I miss the girl who had something to be proud of. I miss the girl who was genuinely happy in her own skin. I miss the girl who was innocent and free and thought for herself. I miss the girl who would look in the mirror and not see every flaw. I miss the girl who didn’t let the negative words of others bother her. I’ve transformed myself to make everyone else like me. But now I don’t like me. I really miss who I was.”
That’s the opening paragraph to a long, heartfelt email I received last night from a reader named Lori. Her email goes on to, inadvertently, describe nearly a dozen self-defeating questions she asks herself on a regular basis – questions I know for a fact she doesn’t even mean to be asking.
Negativity often breeds not from the answers we receive from this world, but from the questions we ask ourselves every day. Like Lori, if you ask negative questions, you will get negative answers. There are no positive answers to:
- “Why me?”
- “Why didn’t I?”
- “What if I’m not good enough?”
Think about it. Would you allow someone else to ask you the demoralizing questions you sometimes ask yourself? I doubt it. So stop and swap them for questions that push you in a positive direction. Here are some ideas to get you started…
- What could you be grateful for and positive about right now, if you really wanted to? – Your greatest weapon against stress and negativity is your ability to choose one thought over another. Happiness escapes from those who refuse to see the good in what they have. When life gives you every reason to be negative, think positive.
- What’s one problem you’re thankful you don’t have? – Smile right now; not because life has been easy, perfect, or exactly as you had anticipated, but because you choose to be happy and grateful for all the good things you do have, and all the problems you know you don’t have.
- What are you holding on to that you need to let go of? – Oftentimes holding on actually makes us weaker, and letting go builds our strength. Does that thing you were extremely upset about six months ago, or last year, really matter now? I bet it doesn’t. And if you’re still thinking about it, it’s not serving your best interests. (Read The Untethered Soul.)
- Who, or what, needs your forgiveness? – Forgiveness doesn’t always lead to healed relationships and situations. Some relationships and situations aren’t meant to be. Forgive anyway, and let what’s meant to be, BE. Go ahead and set yourself free. When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and break free.
- What’s the right thing to do? – Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s worth your while. Do what’s right, not what’s easy. It’s a far less stressful way to live.
- What’s something nice you can do for someone else right now? – Do all the good you can, to as many people as you can, as often as you can. No act of love and kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Good vibes always come back around.
- What compliments have you received lately? – Remember, butterflies don’t know the color of their wings, but the human eyes know how beautiful they are. Likewise, in the haste of your busy days, you likely don’t notice just how great you are, but others nearby still see that you are incredible. When someone says something nice about you, it’s worth remembering.
- What do you know you’re great at? – Although it’s nice to hear people compliment you, it’s not essential to your self-worth. And if no one offers to give you a compliment, give yourself one. You are GOOD enough, SMART enough and STRONG enough. You don’t need other people to validate you every minute; you are VALUABLE! Notice your strengths, focus on them, and celebrate them.
- What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you? – Truth be told, you can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t try. Care less about what the haters say about you and smile more about what you know is true. Live your life and be happy with yourself, without their negative judgments. Practice listening to compliments and constructive criticism, and ignoring insults and negativity. It’s far from easy, but it’s worth working on.
- What activities help you feel most like yourself? – In other words, figure out what motivates you to grow into your most authentic self. And remember that you can’t grow unless you’re willing to change. But as you grow you’ll notice you don’t change much… you just become more of who YOU are.
- What gets you excited about life? – Think… If you truly wanted to be excited right now, what could you get excited about? Find it and focus on it more often. When you truly believe in what you’re doing, it shows and it pays. Success in life is for those who are excited about where they’re going. (Angel and I discuss this concept in more detail in the “Passion and Growth” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- What excuses do you need to stop making? – As George Washington once said, “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” Nothing could be closer to the truth. If you are good at making excuses, you will never be good at anything else. No matter what the obstacles are that you see in front of you, the only thing truly standing between you and what you want is the excuse you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.
- If you learn from your mistakes, why are you always so afraid to make a mistake? – If you want to do it right, make lots of mistakes and accept a great deal of discomfort along the way. It might sound crazy, but it’s worth your while. In life, mistakes make you smarter and discomfort makes you stronger. Both are necessary growing pains.
- When was the unexpected better than what you expected? – When something goes wrong in your life, just yell, “Plot twist!” and then do your best to adapt. You won’t always get where you intended to go in life, but you will eventually arrive precisely where you need to be.
- What do you now know better for next time? – Don’t let your fear of past events affect the outcome of your future. Live for what today has to offer, not what yesterday has taken away. There will always be obstacles, but we are confined most often by the walls we build ourselves. What we see depends on how we look at it. Forget what you’ve lost and focus on what you’ve learned.
- What’s the next best step forward from here? – Every unwelcomed event, person or situation is really just a doorway into the next YOU. A stronger, wiser YOU. (Read Change Your Thoughts.)
- What’s priceless about this moment? – Step forward, but don’t rush. Don’t completely waste the season of life you are in now, simply because you want the next one to begin. There is always beauty waiting to be realized. Notice the goodness happening around you right now, even if you have to look a little harder than usual.
- When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing? – Relax. You are enough. You have enough. You do enough. Breathe extra deep, let go and just live right now in the moment.
- Who do you need to spend less time with? – There are over seven billion people in the world right now; don’t let a handful of negative ones ruin your happiness. No, you can’t choose every person you meet in life, but you can choose who you spend your time with. So be thankful for the people who walk into your life and make it better, but also be thankful for the freedom to walk away from the ones who don’t.
- How have insignificant past rejections messed with your self-confidence? – Don’t let old rejections take up permanent residence in your head. Kick them out on the street. Realize that sometimes you have to try to do what you think you can’t do, so you realize that you actually CAN. And sometimes it takes more than one attempt. If ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work out, don’t fret; the alphabet has another 25 letters that would be happy to give you a chance to get it right. The wrong choices usually bring us to the right places, eventually. You just have to believe in your own potential to get there.
Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to ask enough of the right ones that ultimately leads you to an understanding of yourself and your purpose.
You can spend your life wallowing in fear by avoiding the obvious, or asking negative questions like, “Why me?” Or you can be grateful that you’ve made it this far – that you are strong enough to breathe, walk and think for yourself – and then ask, “Where do I want to go next?”
What did I miss? What encouraging questions do you need to start asking yourself? Leave us a comment below and let us know.
Photo by: Moyan Brenn