“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
That tidbit of wisdom comes from author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. She’s right. Some years cause us to wonder why, or what’s next, or what’s up with that? And some years provide insight and clarity so that our lives make a little more sense.
But there are also questions that should be asked and answered, not just once a year but throughout it.
Let’s face it – we are all busy and distracted. That means we aren’t always paying attention in the moment to what we are doing. Sometimes it’s the noisiest things that take our time – demands from bosses or kids or family members. Sometimes it’s stuff that provides a distraction or respite from what is on our plates. Who hasn’t binge watched a Netflix series or spent time mindlessly scrolling through social media? Any of those activities may not actually be the best use of our time and energy – meaning they aren’t really the things that get us any closer to our real goals.
It isn’t just what we are doing. It’s also how we show up while we are doing those things. When we are distracted or feeling overwhelmed, we are more likely to react impulsively to things that are happening around us. You know, you say something a little harsh, you make a rude gesture, you disregard the other human beings in your path. We all do it even if we don’t like to admit it.
It’s simply the natural outcome of not being conscious and intentional in our choices about what we are doing and how we are showing up while we are doing it.
So yes, we are human.
And yes, we can do a little better even in the face of a hyper busy and distracted world.
Asking ourselves simple, yet powerful questions can help us stay focused and intentional about how we are spending our time and the impact we are having. I believe these questions are the key to a greater sense of well-being.Asking ourselves simple, yet powerful questions can help us stay focused and intentional about how we are spending our time and the impact we are having. Click To Tweet
So here they are – 5 questions that can help you return to the present moment and align your priorities and actions.
What am I doing?
This question asks you to pay attention to how you are spending your time right now. Is what you are doing a good reflection of your current priorities? There are only 24 hours in the day and if we trade many of them doing tasks that are not the most important things we wish to accomplish, we never get a real sense of satisfaction and contentment.
One of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to do “first things first”. That’s because people who are effective in business or life don’t waste time and energy on things that are not important. Asking “what I am doing right now” helps us make a more conscious choice about putting those first things at the top of the list.
How am I doing things?
This question gets at how you are approaching the stress of the day. It’s easy to be calm when things are calm. On any day though there will be unexpected things that happen. Most days something won’t go the way you want it to. Unfortunately, when things are hectic or uncertain, we tend to react in ways that may in fact add to our stress.
When you ask yourself “how am I doing things right now”, you are really asking how well you are going with the flow of whatever is happening in the moment – even if it is chaotic. Resilience is a set of skills that we can practice every day, especially on things that are minor irritations or disappointments. That practice helps us build those skills, so we are better able to cope when the nasty stuff hits the fan. When we pause to ask how we are doing, we give ourselves the chance to switch from being stressed to being calm, grounded and confident. From that place, you will be better equipped to manage whatever tasks you might be doing.
Who am I being?
This question asks you to consider which version of yourself is currently showing up. Of course, there is only one you. But that one you doesn’t always look the same, does it? It would be lovely if we always brought the very best of ourselves to activities we are doing or our interactions with others. The truth is we all have a cranky or whiny side. We all have a discouraged or defensive side. Or an angry, hurt, opinionated, judgmental, bossy, sarcastic and so on side.
And we have a kind, loving, caring, compassionate, optimistic, strong, confident, respectful and so on side to ourselves.
When you ask yourself “who am I are being right now”, you are tapping into your personal presence. How we show up in any moment has a direct impact on ourselves and those around us. It’s not about making any part of our selves bad or wrong. It’s simply paying attention in the moment to which version of ourselves we are showcasing and whether it is helpful to the current situation.
Why am I doing things?
This question goes hand in hand with “what am I doing”. It’s the BIG WHY question that informs the choice of tasks and activities that take up your time. If what we are doing is not ultimately a reflection of what we say is most important, then what’s the point?
Unlike the other questions, this isn’t necessarily one we ask every day. It’s really a question we ask in order to have a deeper understanding of what is truly important to us as individuals. Once we know the answer, then we can better align this underlying purpose with how we spend our time. It’s not a one-time question either. Rather its one that we repeatedly ask ourselves so that we can peel the onion about our core values and beliefs.
When will I pause?
This is the most important question. You see, without a pause there is no space to ask any of the other questions. It would be great if we simply took a moment to pause in our day, but the reality is with full to over-flowing schedules, pausing falls off the radar. Proactively planning when we will pause for a moment and then setting a reminder like an alarm on our phone or posting a sticky note somewhere increases the likelihood that we actually will stop for a minute.
Like any tip or tool, these 5 questions only work if you use them. So write them down and start playing with them. Well-being doesn’t have to be complicated. Pick a question for the day. Keep it simple. Just pause at some point and ask yourself the question. Then let the answer inform your choices going forward.