Tuesday, December 3, 2013
9 Questions that can change your life
9 Questions That Can Change Your Life I’m fascinated by what makes for a significant life. As someone who wrote a book on happiness and fulfillment (although I don’t claim to know everything about these subjects!), these tend to be topics I think about a lot. I’ve had the privilege of interacting with many people who are leading lives of purpose, humility, courage and commitment. Based on these interactions, I’ve come up with a list of nine questions that these remarkable people ask themselves regularly. I’ve no doubt that the following nine questions have the potential to change your life. 1. "What do I want people to say about me at my funeral?" This might seem like a sad or morbid question, but it isn’t. We’re all going to die one day. Asking ourselves this question helps to frame our current life in terms of our eventual death. On the day I turned 22, I distinctly remember thinking to myself: “22 isn’t that young any more. There are so many people who die before the age of 22. I’m going to die one day. The question is: Am I going to really live?” That’s a question I continue to ask myself daily. Do you want people to remember you as a loving, kind and generous person? If so, then the time to start living as a loving, kind and generous person is right now, not when you’re on your deathbed. 2. "Do I truly value my closest relationships?" Most people would answer “yes” to this question. I’ve met some people, however, who claim that they value their family, but who spend almost all of their time at work or engaged in their hobbies—and spend hardly any time with their family. Their claim doesn’t appear to be true. If you want to know what a person truly values, just look at the way he spends his time and money. Words alone don’t count for much. The quality of our relationships largely determines the quality of our life, so let’s be intentional about building the relationships that mean the most to us. 3. "How can I add more value to other people?" People who lead remarkable lives understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them. The billions of other people on the planet represent billions of opportunities to serve and to make a difference. Remarkable people focus on contribution instead of achievement. 4. "Who can I encourage?" We’ve all come to a point in life—myself included, of course—where we realise that life is full of struggle, disappointment and pain. It’s at these times that we need someone to tell us that he or she believes in us and that we’ll get through the difficult situation. We can all be that encouraging person to someone else today. 5. "What do I have to be thankful for?" Just about every study on happiness shows that there’s a strong link between gratefulness and happiness. Why don’t more people express gratitude on a regular basis? I think it’s because it’s human nature to focus on the negative and to complain. But I’m certain that if we think of just one thing each day to be thankful for, we’ll be significantly happier! 6. "What do I need to let go of?" We all carry emotional baggage around with us: Frustrations, hurts, resentment, bitterness, hatred, insecurities. When we take the time to reflect and to become aware of what we need to let go of, we’ll be able to develop a plan to deal with these issues. This plan might involve having a heart-to-heart conversation with your parents, asking your friend to forgive you, or apologising to your sibling. Simple steps really can rid us of excess emotional baggage. 7. "What fears do I need to overcome?" Most of the time, we should interpret fear as a signal to advance, not to retreat. Four years ago, my biggest fear in life was public speaking. One day, I decided that I just couldn’t let this fear defeat me any longer. I promised myself that I’d take every opportunity I could to overcome this fear. I volunteered to give presentation after presentation and talk after talk. To my surprise, I eventually discovered that I enjoy public speaking. In many ways, it’s ironic that today I’m a professional speaker who absolutely loves his job, given that I used to be terrified of public speaking! I’ll be the first to admit that I still have plenty of fears to overcome, but I’m convinced that our lives become richer and more abundant when we consciously face our fears. 8. "What is one thing I can do right now to make the situation better?" This is an empowering question, which helps us to focus on the factors that are within our control. On the other hand, these are the kinds of questions we instinctively ask ourselves, but which aren’t usually helpful: •Who can I blame? •Why is life so unfair? •Why is no one sympathising with me? •Why am I such a failure? •Why are other people so much smarter than me? Remarkable people refuse to ask these questions, and instead concentrate on just one thing they can do right now to improve the situation. 9. "Who do I admire most?" Do you admire people who lead balanced lives, or people who have a laser focus on just one objective? Do you admire people who are task-oriented or people-oriented? Do you admire people who are wealthy, even if they’ve acquired that wealth through unethical—although not necessarily illegal—means? Who we admire will subconsciously influence who we become, so we should be careful about who we look up to as role models. In closing… These nine questions aren’t easy to answer. If they were, there would be many more remarkable people around. I know that I need to reflect on these questions daily, and that I have a long way to go if I want to become a person of character and commitment. Together, let’s build lives of meaning and significance. The world is counting on us. Daniel Wong is a learning and personal development expert, as well as a certified youth counselor. A sought-after speaker and coach, he is also the best-selling author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He offers programmes to help students become both happy and successful and to help parents to connect more effectively with their children. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-books, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?" and "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision".