Judge a person by her questions rather than by her answers. Because asking the right questions is the answer.
The saying “She who teaches others, teaches herself” is very true, not only because constant repetition helps impress facts indelibly on the mind, but also because the process of teaching itself gives greater insight into the subject taught. Selfishly, this is sometimes the reason Angel and I take on new course students and write new personal development articles, even when our schedules are full. The strategies we teach help us grow, too.
One of the strategies we teach over and over again is self-inquiry, which is basically the art of asking ourselves the right questions. Why is this strategy so important? Because the questions we ask ourselves become thoughts. Thoughts then become words. Words become actions. Actions become character. And character changes everything.
Truth be told, when times get tough and big problems arise, as they inevitably will, it is the strength of our character that sees us through.
And since our character is directly influenced by what we say to (and ask of) ourselves on a daily basis, I want you to think about how you’ve been speaking to yourself lately. Have you been using the empowering, encouraging words you would speak to a friend? Or the belittling remarks you would shout to an enemy if you had no heart? Or the negative remarks about life you might utter if you had no faith?
All day long you speak silently to yourself, and a part of you believes every word. Which is why it’s important to stay mindful when problems arise, and meditate on the right questions…
- What could you be positive and happy 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 of one good reason to be positive.
- What’s one problem you’re thankful you don’t have right now? – Smile, not because life has been easy, perfect, or exactly as you had anticipated, but because you choose to be happy and thankful for all the good things you do have, and for all the problems you know you don’t have. (Read Man’s Search for Meaning.)
- What do you need to stop thinking and saying to yourself? – Stop discrediting yourself for everything you aren’t, and start giving yourself credit for everything you ARE. We have to learn to be our own best friends, because sometimes we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies.
- What are you holding on to that you need to let go of? – One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go—whether it’s guilt, anger, love or loss. Change is never easy. You fight to hold on and you fight to let go, but oftentimes letting go is the healthiest path forward. It clears out toxic thoughts from the past. You’ve got to emotionally free yourself from the things that once meant a lot to you, so you can move beyond the past and the pain it brings you. Again, it takes hard work to let go and refocus your thoughts, but it’s worth every bit of effort you can muster.
- Will you blame others and deny responsibility, or will you create an action plan to move forward? – Imagine how much more effective and happy you’d be if, instead of denying, blaming, dreading and fighting against certain situations and tasks, you simply got them handled.
- How can you respond from a place of clarity and strength, rather than thoughtlessly reacting to this experience? – Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask yourself if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future. And remember that our character is often most evident in our highs and lows. Be humble at the mountaintops, be strong in the valleys, and be faithful in between.
- How can you be of service to the greater good, so that everyone around you feels elevated, rather than weighed down? – Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more. Thus, the best way to find yourself when times are tough, is to lose yourself in the service of a cause greater than yourself.
- How are your expectations serving you, or hurting you? – Don’t lower your standards, but do remember that removing your expectations of everything is the best way to avoid being disappointed. Because, in a sense, expectations are like fine pottery—the harder you hold on to them, the more likely they are to crack. So just let go a little, and appreciate your life and relationships for what they truly are.
- 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 entity, 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 do you now know better for next time? – Don’t let your fear of past events affect all the possibilities ahead of you. 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 greatly depends on how we look at it. Forget what you’ve lost and focus on what you’ve learned.
(NOTE: Angel and I cover dozens of important life questions as a theme that radiates through every chapter of our NEW edition of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Now, it’s your turn…
Today, remind yourself that life is full of uncontrollable circumstances, and the only thing you can absolutely control is how you choose to respond. When you really take the time to think about it, everything happening around us is neutral and meaningless up until the point that we give it meaning. And the questions we ask ourselves drive the meaning we create.
In any situation, it’s about choosing:
- Will I allow this to upset me?
- Will I choose to make this bad or good?
- Will I choose to stay or walk away?
- Will I choose to yell or whisper?
- Will I choose to react or take the time to respond?
Bottom line: The questions we ask ourselves drive our behavior, and our behavior is a little thing that makes a big difference. To a great extent, we create our fate every single day… and most of the ills we suffer from are directly traceable to our own (controllable) behavior.
So, keep yourself in check today. 😉
And please leave Angel and I a comment below to let us know what you think of this post. Your feedback is important to us.
Frank Nash says
I relate strongly to your afterthought about choice. We all have the choice as to how we think and how we react to the situations life gives us. Question 10 resonates with me most as I’m hesitant to make changes in my life, yet, each time I’ve faced the fear and gone forward; whether it’s a change of career, going back to school, or giving a big speech on behalf of myself and my colleagues during a labor dispute, it’s always worked out and given me a confidence boost. The more I take action in making the changes (and overcoming the fear) the better I feel about it, and the easier it’s been the next time to take action.
Ps. My wife and I are using your 1000 Little Things book as our morning ritual for daily affirmations. 🙂
Valencia Ray, MD says
Every question and point here resonates with me and I needed to hear it.
I have done the why me, pity party thing. I have also spent far too much time in the past being frustrated, chasing success in all the wrong places, and then blaming everyone else for my actions.
Nowadays, I exercise #5 in full – I take responsibility for every aspect of my life, I review my goals and progress on a regular basis, and I make changes when I must, just like that.
Thank you, yet again. Your posts and emails continue to move me forward.
Like Valencia, every single one of these questions resonates with me in some way. Right now #4 hits home the most. I often hold on too tightly to my insecurities and I really need to LET THEM GO. It’s one of the main reasons I started reading your blog and book. And it’s also why I’m interested in your course, which I will be joining soon. I am getting a better handle on myself and my emotions, but it takes lots of practice on my behalf.
Also, to add to the list, I often ask myself: Are my actions and efforts adding value to my life and the lives of those I care about the most?
Oh, and congrats on the release of your updated 1,000 Things book. It’s truly lovely. Even better than the first edition I have.
Oh my gosh, all 10 and then some. I am just amazed how these posts pop up right when I need to read them. I do get it, but it seems like forever to actually “get there”. It is such a work in process every day. Every day I struggle. Some days are ok, some are not, and some are just terrible.
I agree with Frank about the afterthoughts and the choice. Every self question has a choice. Some really need to be thought out, it is not always just yes or no. This is also a struggle. My self questions.
I know right from wrong, but I don’t always see what is right for me instead of what is wrong for me. Again, it’s more negative than positive. Another choice. So much to work on. Every day.
Thank you so much.
K. Jesse Roig says
Excellent, and on point, as always! So blessed daily by you and Angel’s work!??????????
Soumya Srinivasan says
This is one of the best and much needed articles that I have read on your blog.
A lot of times whenever I feel down, I look forward to your inspirational emails to slowly but truly work on myself.
Thank you again Mark and Angel for these lovely Pearls of Wisdom 🙂
Thank you for sharing these questions.
All of the questions really hit home with me and helped move me from a toxic, stuck state of mind to a positive, forward thinking state.
I immediately bought your book 1,000 Little Things.
I enjoy your emails. There is always something beneficial to absorb that helps me move forward.
Tamatha Conaway says
I appreciate everything about this article
#6 resonates with me the most.. Will I react to their hurtful and morally wrong comments with anger which is justified, but thus becoming hurtful like them. Or, will I be humble and kind and remain in my core character …not to become like them..
I have had a lot of disappointments over the past ten years and my anxiety levels have increased to a point where I have become over sensitive to noise and find it difficult to be happy in my home. However, I have been attending meditation classes for over a year and try to practise at home as often as possible. I have also been reading self help books and have become more spiritual. I then came across the blogs by Marc and Angel and find them really useful to focus my mind to be more positive. I feel that I can now see light at the end of the tunnel to overcome my main issues thanks to all of the above and my own determination.
This is confirmation to take control of my thoughts. I have had a couple of recent disappoints due to decisions I’ve made and unrealistic expectations. The devotion I read from Rick Warren this morning had the same theme. So it must be God. Control your thoughts and control your actions. To go one step further. I watched part of a sermon last night that suggested I get out of my feelings. Their is no faith in my feelings. My actions will come from what is and not how I feel about what is.
Thank you two for this. Keep shining your light.
I so needed this article right now.
I had a life situation come up where I wish I had seen this article earlier yesterday when the situation arose.
I am writing the following down and will ask these questions to myself before I answer any situation that I feel troubled by.
thanks for the thoughts.
Here is my new outlook on life’s situations.
Will I allow this to upset me?
Will I choose to make this bad or good?
Will I choose to stay or walk away?
Will I choose to yell or whisper?
Will I choose to react or take the time to respond?
“Letting go is the healthiest path forward”
I keep waffling about leaving a job I used to enjoy and love but the stress of mismanagement makes it difficult to do either now.
Thank you for your words of wisdom today.
Joanne Bartek says
I love your post and the approach is laid out simple no fancy words just “straight goods”, I am going to pass this to a dear friend of mine that is going through pre menopause and all the up and down emotions, anxity, and defeateous self talk you fall into. She creating depression in her life so this will help and some good herbals, meditation to clear and change her thoughts.?
Thank you as always you guys are THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS???
Maria Sodari says
Thank you so much for your frequent emails! They are so uplifting and encouraging… I purchased both of your books and am utilizing the strategies daily. I love the way you have us start out with 15 minutes… exercise, meditation and washing breakfast dishes… ?? These emails bring forth more thoughts throughout my workday as well. Thank you both! Maria
How timely is this post. I just got the news that I lost the job which I had for past 11 years, the only thing which I was holding on to. This post really helped me to calm my thoughts. You said it very right, “forget what you lost, and focus on what u learnt”.
Thank you for your posts, they are truly inspirational.
Thanks for the reminder! Yes there were many occasions that I do have self-pity thoughts so I hope I will eventually be the person that elevates moods of people around me.
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Mike S says
Letting Go, Taking Responsibility, Create an Action Plan. I have a job where it’s long-term unsatisfying and I’d really like to move into something new. Trouble is I see change as a mountain where the path is steep, poorly marked and not always clear. And so I sit in the base lodge where it’s warm and safe and the direct deposit hits twice per month.
Reading this article and comments, for some reason I realize I can view a career change as a large grassy plain with no paths at all. Just set out every day at my own pace keeping the morning sun to my right. When I arrive I will know.
Thank you. You’ve hooked a new regular.
Michel Joachim says
These top 10 questions change your mind to think better than now but there some reason I forget all these questions because I already looking for the batter side for the family & society…
Thank you for always sharing your perspective and allowing me to think and reflect on the true matter of what truly needs adjustment within me.