“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance.” Albert Einstein
To translate Albert Einstein’s beautiful quote to something we can chew on, I propose this — if you can ask yourself difficult questions and make yourself think, you will find all the answers within yourself.
Very recently, I’ve come to make huge life-altering decisions in only a few days. That’s not to say I didn’t think through them carefully — it’s actually because I thought through them so carefully and asked myself the right questions that I am able to make these decisions confidently.
For example, a few days ago, I decided to reshuffle the responsibilities and roles at my startup. It was a huge decision to make, but I did it happily after answering questions like:Advertising
- Why haven’t I done this already? What pain do I avoid in delaying this?
- What will it feel like after I’ve made this decision? What pleasure will I enjoy in making the jump?
- Does this decision feel liberating — or limiting?
These questions may seem trivial to you, but sitting down to put these ideas on papers made me face the facts — I was avoiding this out of pure fear. It was time to make a change, and I’m very happy with the result — because I got cozy with difficult questions long enough to hammer out the answers I knew all along.
Finding the Answers — Your Action Plan
If you want to find the answers within yourself, here are the steps I suggest for attacking the toughest questions:
1. Be open to questions and to figuring it all out.
Becoming more self-aware is critical to solving problems, but being open to that self-awareness is vital.
Without making the decision to become open and honest about finding the answers, the water will run through the tubes, but the faucet won’t let any of it trickle out. It’s easy to become closed off from introspection and questioning.Advertising
If I hadn’t decided to truly question myself and face my answers with conviction and the desire to make a change, I probably would not feel as liberated and purposeful as I do right now. It’s scary, I admit. But it’s also incredibly exhilarating.
2. Find the right questions.
Sometimes, the right questions can come from a family member inquiring about our decisions — not fun, but certainly valuable. Other times, though, the right questions come in the form of resources we hadn’t really considered.
When I was writing a book proposal a few months ago, I didn’t know where to begin. After some serious Google searching, I found a great resource to start soul-searching — a workbook by Danielle LaPorte. This amazing workbook asked me a series of questions that helped me think through my proposal, structure it, and get down on paper what I already had floating around my mind. I knew what I wanted to write about, but the workbook helped me make it concrete.
Since that experience, I’ve come across many worthwhile workbooks on the web. I’ve even been inspired enough to develop my own iPhone app (called QuestionUp) to ask the right questions for each type of problem.Advertising
It’s an amazing experience when a workbook, an app, or even a friend asks you a question that stumps you — and then inspires you.
3. Sit down to think through the answers.
The format you prefer depends on your personal taste — and your mood. Sometimes, I use pen and paper, but other times I use an app. The important string that holds them all together is the desire to be at peace with the process of answering each question.
(Tip: For those who can’t disconnect completely, I recommend software to help you block certain websites — or block your entire internet connection! It really helps me focus when I can’t do it on my own.)
Whether I sit down with a notebook, my laptop, or an app, the process is always the same. Each question crashes over me like a wave, but then smooths out and leaves me with serene waters and a lighter heart — ready for the next one.Advertising
All in all, I find looking within ourselves and searching for our own answers is a resource many do not appreciate. Before you look outside of yourself today, take a moment to look inside. It’s amazing what you might find.
Is there a technique you use to find all the answers within yourself? If you know of any good resources, please share them in the comments!
Featured photo credit: checked the box by symbol of tick in selection via Shutterstock
Last Updated on December 2, 2018
How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life
Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.
The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.
The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.
Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:
Review Your Past Flow
Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?
Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week. That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.
Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern
Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.
Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.
Account for Big Picture Fluctuations
Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?
We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.
Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?
Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com