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.
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.
-Dan from the Future
If you’re feeling brave, tell us what your letter would say in the comments!
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.
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.
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