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10 Questions That Will Unlock Your Potential

10 Questions That Will Unlock Your Potential

Do you ever feel like you have the potential to do great things with your life, but just aren’t sure how to start? I know that feeling very well, as it’s taken me years of reflection to figure out what activities make me feel happy and fulfilled. I hope this article will give you a gentle shove in the right direction. Simply answer these ten questions to unlock your potential.

1. If I could write a letter to the 2004 version of myself, what would it say?

Let’s pretend that you are living in the future and have been handed the opportunity to write a letter to the 2004 version of yourself. I’m not going to offer you any further direction as I feel this exercise will be more powerful if I don’t lead you one way or another, but just in case you’re curious, here’s what I would say to the 2004 (17 year-old) version of myself:

Dear Teenage Dan,

You’re feeling a bit nervous right now, but take a deep breath and do the scary thing, because it’ll be worth it. I know the idea of getting on a stage and performing a play in front of everybody in high school makes you feel like fainting, but you’re going to walk away more confident and comfortable in who you are.

Also, congrats on that 30 pounds you lost playing DDR (Dance, Dance, Revolution), but a word of warning: you’re going to go to college, where there is a buffet available 24/7, eat away your feelings, and gain every bit of that back. To save yourself a lot of trouble, I would recommend writing about what you’re dealing with so you can cope with things in a positive way. But hey, even if you don’t, it’s okay, because later you’re going to discover that lifting weights is awesome, and get super strong/built, so no big deal.

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Never stop dreaming big, no matter what other people say and think. Yes, listen to feedback from others, but don’t get caught up in any negative opinions that aren’t accompanied with positive input; because without that, it’s a waste of your time.

Oh, I almost forgot… In a couple years, someone is going to offer you your first shot of tequila at a college party. Just because you feel “okay” after that first shot does not mean you should immediately drink four more. I know you’re still young-and-innocent, but just trust me on this one, it’s a very bad idea.

<3

-Dan from the Future

If you’re feeling brave, tell us what your letter would say in the comments! 

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2. If I could only accomplish one thing before I die, what would that be?

Not two, three, or four things: what one thing do you want to achieve, accomplish, or experience more than anything else? Once you figure that out, pursue it with every ounce of hustle you’ve got, because life is too precious for regret.

3. What are the top three things that make me feel happy and fulfilled?

This could be training, coaching or teaching other people; writing books, blogs or articles; spending time with your children, partner or loved ones; enjoying nature activities like hiking, camping or rafting; or maybe you’re a wandering soul who wants to travel to all of the places. Figure out your top three things, and build your schedule around them for a happier existence.

4. What are the top three things that distract me from enjoying my life?

Being interrupted by buzzing, chirping and ringing every time you get a text or call? Turn your phone off unless your children are at school, or you’re expecting a very important call (otherwise it can wait, I promise, voicemail exists for a reason).

So stressed out by your job that you can’t find the energy to think about anything else? Find another one (or even better, start your own biz).

Constantly subjected to a chorus of negative thoughts that make you feel like a failure or loser? See below.

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5. Am I in control of my thoughts, or am I at the mercy of them?

If your thoughts are negative and nasty, then you can’t expect your life to be positive and pleasant. Reality is a funny thing, as there isn’t exactly a single one of them, but rather we all live in our own realities that are influenced by our beliefs, thoughts, and ideas. You can’t expect success in life if you keep telling yourself you will never amount to anything, aren’t “good enough”, or don’t deserve to be happy. If you’d like to defeat the Mental Monsters that limit you, this might help.

6. Am I in control of my eating decisions, or am I at the mercy of them?

Just like your thoughts influence your perception of reality, your eating decisions influence your mood and energy levels. Happy, healthy people consciously choose to eat foods that make them feel alert, focus, and energetic. Unhappy, unhealthy people unconsciously allow their mood and social surroundings to dictate their eating decisions. I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “good” or “bad” food, because every person has their own individual needs… but if it makes you feel bad, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. If you’d like to improve your relationship with food, this might be useful

7. What strengths did I use to achieve three major goals in my life?

Think about three of the biggest achievements of your life. That could be graduating college, getting a raise or promotion, landing your first “real job,” getting published for the first time, or (insert your thing here). Now, think about what personal strengths you used to achieve those things. See any trends? If so, the road that leads to success is right in front of you.

8. How can I use those strengths more often?

While it is sometimes important to correct a weakness if it causes a significantly negative effect to your performance, it is often much easier and less time-consuming to simply play to your strengths in a way that make your weaknesses completely irrelevant. Write down the strengths you came up with in the question above, put them somewhere you will see them daily, and keep asking yourself, “How can I use those strengths today?”

9. Why should I care what other people think about me?

If you spend all of your days consumed in concerns about what other people think about you, then you’re going to be too stressed out and depressed to take the action necessary for improving your life. It is better to have a small number of true friends you trust, than a large number of phony friends who don’t love and accept you as you are.

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10. Why do I exist?

I know that question is a lot to wrap your head around (that just so happens to be why I saved it for the end), but nonetheless, it is something you need to think about. Look at it this way: if a person was giving a speech about you at your funeral, what would you want them to say? Or, if someone was to write a biography about you after your death, what would you hope it would say?

I hope answering these questions helps you unlock your potential for more success in life. I’d love to know how this exercise worked for you, so please tell us in the comments.

 

Featured photo credit: Meditation/M. Dolly via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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