10 Questions That Can
Change Your Life
Best-selling author and coach Martha Beck
gives us the opportunity to ponder our way to a better life,
and in the process, a better life at work.
I'm freshly back this week from a retreat with best-selling author and coach Martha Beck. I've found inspiration from her work for many years. Her article "The 20 Questions That Can Change Your Life" struck a chord with me when it was first published last year. The questions are broad and sweeping, and without a doubt changed my perspective and my life in many ways.
Here's why I want to share a bit of this wisdom from Martha with you. First, Martha is a Harvard Ph.D. She's highly educated and incredibly intelligent. Second, Martha has had unbelievable life experiences. The adventures of her life, and how she's chosen to navigate them, are inspiring. Third, Martha is a world-renowned and inspired coach. She excels by combining her intellect, her experience, and her insights to help others help themselves.
Sometimes we just want someone to give us all the answers. Just tell us what to do. When it comes to living our best lives - at work or at home - no one else can give us the answers. The best we can hope is that someone will provide the questions we should consider answering for ourselves. To that end, I share Martha's wisdom with you here.
Ask yourself these questions relative to your life at work and you may just be surprised by your answers. If you gain one new insight about how to succeed in business, without eating your soul for breakfast, it's time well spent. Give yourself that gift.
Before You Can Change Your Life
It's easy to get caught up in being "busy" in our lives. We move through every day, addressing whatever comes our way. In the workplace, we do what we're told, at least for the most part. There's more to do than we can possibly get done. Sometimes we're gratified by our work and enjoying the process. Other times, we're not. In either case, we usually just keep going.
Here's the thing with being "busy." If we don't stop to think about what we really want, how do we know if we have it? If we don't revisit what we think we want on a regular basis, how do we know we still want the same things?
Sometimes, we just need to press pause. We need to step away from the busy-ness. (Or busi-ness as the case might be. Isn't that interesting, the similarity in those two words?) Give yourself the gift of a few minutes to really think about each of these questions. Then simply see where the answers lead.
10 Questions That Can Change Your Life - At Work And At Home
(An excerpt from Martha Beck, as referenced below.*)
1. What questions should I be asking myself?
At first I thought asking yourself what you should be asking yourself was redundant. It isn't. Without this question, you wouldn't ask any others, so it gets top billing. It creates an alert, thoughtful mind state, ideal for ferreting out the information you most need in every situation. Ask it frequently.
2. Is this what I want to be doing?
This very moment is, always, the only moment in which you can make changes. Knowing which changes are best for you comes, always, from assessing what you feel. Ask yourself many times every day if you like what you're doing. If the answer is no, start noticing what you'd prefer. Thus begins the revolution.
3. How do I want the world to be different because I lived in it?
Your existence is already a factor in world history—now, what sort of factor do you want it to be? Maybe you know you're here to create worldwide prosperity, a beautiful family, or one really excellent bagel. If your impressions are more vague, keep asking this question. Eventually you'll glimpse clearer outlines of your destiny. Live by design, not by accident.
4. How do I want to be different because I lived in this world?
In small ways or large, your life will change the world—and in small ways or large, the world will change you. What experiences do you want to have during your brief sojourn here? Make a list. Make a vision board. Make a promise. This won't control your future, but it will shape it.
5. What is my body telling me?
As I often say, my mind is a two-bit whore—by which I mean that my self-justifying brain, like any self-justifying brain, will happily absorb beliefs based on biases, ego gratification, magical thinking, or just plain error. The body knows better. It's a wise, capable creature. It recoils from what's bad for us, and leans into what's good. Let it.
6. Where am I wrong? (Note from Lisa: I love this question.)
This might well be the most powerful question on our list—as Socrates believed, we gain our first measure of intelligence when we first admit our own ignorance. Your ego wants you to avoid noticing where you may have bad information or unworkable ideas. But you'll gain far more capability and respect by asking where you're wrong than by insisting you're right.
7. What do I love to practice?
Some psychologists believe that no one is born with any particular talent and that all skill is gained through practice. Studies have shown that masters are simply people who've practiced a skill intensely for 10,000 hours or more. That requires loving—not liking, loving—what you do. If you really want to excel, go where you're passionate enough to practice.
8. Where could I work less and achieve more?
To maximize time spent practicing your passions, minimize everything else. These days you can find machines or human helpers to assist with almost anything. Author Timothy Ferriss "batches" job tasks into his famous "four-hour workweek." My client Cindy has an e-mail ghostwriter. Another client, Angela, hired an assistant in the Philippines who flawlessly tracks her schedule and her investments. Get creative with available resources to find more time in your life and life in your time.
9. Where should I break the rules?
If everyone kept all the rules, we'd still be practicing cherished traditions like child marriage, slavery, and public hangings. The way humans become humane is by assessing from the heart, rather than the rule book, where the justice of a situation lies. Sometimes you have to break the rules around you to keep the rules within you.
10. So say I lived in that fabulous house in Tuscany, with untold wealth, a gorgeous, adoring mate, and a full staff of servants...then what?
We can get so obsessed with acquiring fabulous lives that we forget to live. When my clients ask themselves this question, they almost always discover that their "perfect life" pastimes are already available. Sharing joy with loved ones, spending time in nature, finding inner peace, writing your novel, plotting revenge—you can do all these things right now. Begin!
I've been someone who asks questions, of myself and others, since I was very young. I'm a continuous seeker of knowledge and understanding. I gain incredible insights from respected authors and experts, such as Martha Beck. I gain even more insight from my interactions on a daily basis with my family, friends, and colleagues. I gain the most insight... from my own curiosity and self-exploration.
Some of the questions Martha offers for consideration are easier to answer than others. That said, I hope you find them all valuable. The more clarity you have about what you want in, and from, your life, the more likely you are to get it. Authentic self-discovery is, without a doubt, the most direct path to success and satisfaction in the workplace.
Martha tells us to "Live by design, not by accident." It doesn't get any better than that.
* Excerpt from Martha Beck's "20 Questions That Could Change Your Life", as published in O Magazine, February 2011. To read the full article online, click here. To learn more about Martha Beck, click here.