Little (but Big) Life Questions

Image Credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash


By asking ourselves the right questions, we can gain more life satisfaction.

Questions are awesome; they help us analyze the merit (or lack thereof) of anything we're brave enough to analyze.

(And yes, it takes bravery to ask honest questions because often, the reason we haven't asked the questions is because we don't want to acknowledge the answers.)

Questions help us decide on the next best course of action, especially when we feel uncertain or slightly lost about where we are in life.

In that vein, here are some little, but BIG, questions that we'll be looking at in this post, taken from the book How to Stop Feeling Like Shit by Andrea Owen:
  1. Who am I?
  2. What am I after? (a.k.a. What do I want?)
  3. What does that look like on a day to day basis? (a.k.a. How do I get it?)
Little questions right?

But BIG.

(Because true wisdom is always simple.)

Let's break down those questions:

1 - Who am I?

Now that's a BIG one. Who am I? Who are YOU? And where does the definition of who you are come from?

"Is the way I'm defining myself based on my own definition, or on the definition others have of me?"

We all live with the ghosts of other people's definitions about who we are haunting our minds - our family, our friends, that kid in high school whose voice we can still hear - therefore it's a good idea to challenge what we've been told is true about us.

Growing up I was always told that between my brother and I, I was the smart one and he was the athletic one. And for a long time I allowed that to be true; I never participated in sports, dropped gym class as soon as I could, and became a highly sedentary creature.

But then in my mid-twenties, I realized that all the dreams I had of adventure and travel were never going to materialize if I didn't have at least a moderate degree of fitness. How was I going to scale ancient ruins? Go on walking tours? Rush through airports to catch planes?

So I started running. Very, very slowly at first, but I did it. I persisted.

And then the day I crossed the finished line on my first race, when the volunteer snipped the timing chip off my running shoe and handed me a "participant" medal, I burst into tears.

I still remember that moment (and I still have that medal) because that was the first time in my life I realized that what I had been told was true about me by other people could be wrong.

That day opened the door for me to begin asking the question "If they were wrong about this, what else were they wrong about?"

And so I ask again: Who are YOU? And where does the definition of who you are come from?

"Is the way I'm defining myself based on my own definition, or on the definition others have of me?"

The quickest way to re-define yourself is to consistently do something in opposition of who you've been told you are. That will blow your mind, and open the door to questioning your definition of self.

I'm not suggesting that everything about who you are should be challenged; I only want to point out that if there's something about who you are that you aren't satisfied with, it can be challenged and changed.

2 - What do I want?

What do I really want? What do YOU really want? Defining that can be challenging because we've all grown up in whatever environment / society we have, that has its own ideas about what we're supposed to want.

Our environment / society has likely defined its ideas about success, happiness, and all of the 'supposed-to's' for us (e.g. if and what kind of education we're expected to get, if and when we're supposed to get married and have kids, what type of careers are considered 'good', etc.)

It can be hard to go against the grain; trust me, as the black-sheep of the family, I totally understand.

But if the prescribed way of living in your society is one that doesn't resonate with you, you have every right to redefine what you want based solely on YOU.

"Is the way I'm living my life based on what I want, or what I've been told I'm supposed to want?"

I spent my life thinking that the only way to be successful was to become a CEO and have a corner office. Then I ended up working as a corporate events manager (not nearly a CEO, but stay with me here).

I flew all over the world for the conferences I organized, meeting with high-powered executives. I existed only to work. Everything I did when I wasn't working was to prepare for the times I was working.

The last conference I organized was a nine-day event in Chicago, where I worked while I had a sinus infection. I couldn't take "time off" because there was no one else to do the work. I was running on adrenaline and by the time I left that job, I was burnt-out.

And I wasn't even a CEO.

Now I have a job where, when my day is done, my day is done. I don't think about work when I'm not at work. This job isn't as high-stakes as my events role was, and it's not nearly as impressive, so I need to find meaning elsewhere because I can no longer define myself by the "importance" of what I do.

And I have to keep reminding myself that I'm making a conscious decision to live life on my own terms because it's easy to feel 'less than' if I use society's metrics to measure my success and therefore 'value.'

And so I ask again: What do YOU really want?

"Is the way I'm living my life based on what I want, or what I've been told I'm supposed to want?"

3 - How do I get it?

You know who you are, and you know what you want - AWESOME.

Now, how do YOU GET IT?

Well, to answer that question, we need to ask another question: What does the person I say I am, wanting the things I want, do on a day-to-day basis?

Example: I am an entrepreneur who wants to run her own business.

What does that person do?

At 5:00 AM, is that person still in bed? What does she do first thing? What's important to her? What does she say "NO" to so that she can say yes to who she is and what she wants?

Example: I am the world's greatest dad who wants to raise amazing kids.

What does that person do?

What's important to him? What does he sacrifice in his own life so that he can - in his own eyes - be the world's greatest dad and be there for his kids?

"What actions can I take everyday that bring me closer to being who I say I am, with the things I say I want?"

Do more of this.

"What actions do I take everyday that take me further away from being who I say I am, without the things I say I want?"

Do less of this.

This is the grown-up version of that game we used to play as kids; hot and cold. Are you getting hotter or colder to being who you say you want to be and having the things you say you want?

Getting what you want is about who you are, and who you are is about what you do. Therefore, to a certain extent, who you are is malleable because if you do something different - consistently - you will become a different person who gets different results.

Asking honest questions is always the first step to change; questions imply a brave willingness to look at the way we've been doing things, and to begin doing them differently if required.

Image Credit: Leland Val Van De Wall


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