The other night, I woke up with a start at 2 a.m. Smoke was billowing through our bedroom window. The winds had shifted and a wildfire blazing many miles away was getting worse.
Fear gripped me. My mind panicked as I thought of all the possibilities of what might happen next.
Suddenly, however, I felt a deep sense of peace overcome me. I noticed my breath. I felt the beating of my heart. I remembered that at that moment, I was okay. My family was okay. I didn’t know what was coming next, but I was comforted by my awareness that in that little point in time, there was still so much good. That shift made all the difference.
There may have been a time in my life when I thought a quality life meant achieving a certain level of success. Now, I look at life much differently.
I now believe living a quality life is about moments like these—moments when things are tough and somehow, we find our way to turn things around, from fear to calm, from blame to empathy, from distraction to clarity—moments when we can be grateful for all that is right even when so much seems wrong.
We might not do this all the time—most of us don’t. It’s natural to complain or feel fearful when times are tough. We might not act exactly as we want to. We might make mistakes, lots of them. We might not do things perfectly.
But when we get off track, I think the secret to a quality life lies in discovering how to find our way back, to turn things around, to do the hard thing even when we don’t want to, to make amends, find the silver lining, and sit with ourselves and others even when we feel afraid.
To help us do this more often—create turnarounds in our lives—I have found that asking ourselves these nine questions can help. Here are 9 questions you can ask yourself to improve your quality of life.
1. What Do You Value?
If life were to end or change dramatically for you today, what would you hold most dear? What would be most important to you? What matters most?
Our lives become richer when we ask ourselves this question often and challenge ourselves to reflect those values daily in the choices we make, thoughts we think, and words we say, day in and day out. We might get distracted or off track, we might forget, but the more we connect with what matters most to us personally, the better our lives become.
2. What Unique Gift Do People Receive By Just Being Around You?
Sometimes, we get so caught up in life that we forget one core truth—we are unique, and as a result of that uniqueness, we each have something to offer others and the world that no one else can. That is hugely important.
You matter. You have value that has absolutely nothing to do with what you have achieved. Your value is simply a result of being who you are.
Who are you, really? Who are you when no one else is around and you are doing something you love doing just for the sheer joy of it? Who are you when you are alone with your thoughts? Who were you when you were a small child enchanted by wonder for our world?
When you are just being you, connected to your highest self, without worrying what other people think, what do you feel like? What is your energy like? What is it like to be you? What is like for others who are around you when you are in that state?
This is your gift. One thing I know for sure: the more you are able to connect with that energy—that essence of who you are—and accept and let it shine, the better your life becomes. Guaranteed.
3. What Do You Stand For?
If someone you love needed your help during a very difficult time, what would you want them to know? What advice would you offer that would make a difference? What is your personal message—the thing that answers most dilemmas in your life and in your opinion—that can help others the most?
I believe living a quality life is all about spreading our unique message, wisdom, and encouragement in whatever form it comes to us as often as possible through our actions, energy, and words.
4. Who Do You Love Most?
When we are in crisis, who matters most to us becomes clear. Right now, at this moment, who are the people you most love and care about? Whom would you miss most if they were gone?
The more we put our full energies into our relationships with these people—striving to be the best parent, partner, and friend we can be—the better our lives become.
This means nurturing and cultivating these relationships, learning to listen, reaching out, telling others we care, and asking how others are. Cultivating depth in our relationships comes from being willing to learn from others, noticing the unique value they offer, and expressing gratitude.
Truly loving means letting go of the small stuff, setting loving boundaries, doing our own work, having empathy and understanding, giving of our full selves, and reminding these special friends and family members as often as possible how much they mean to us.
The words “I love you,” looking at each other in the eyes and deeply connecting by being present, paying attention, and really listening can make miracles happen in our relationships and our lives.
5. What Brings You Joy?
What truly brings you pleasure, the kind that goes deep? Is it the balance in your checkbook or when a baby reaches out her hand and offers you a cheerio or a puppy leaps a toy? Is it your ribbons and trophies, or is it the rush you get when you are creating or doing something you love completely in your creative zone?
Do you find joy when looking at photos of all the places you want to travel to someday, or looking around at the absolute miraculous beauty of where you are in this moment—like the wildflower sprouting up through a crack in the concrete or the way the sunlight is hitting your kitchen window?
The more we focus on what is good about our lives in each moment with gratitude and honor those things that truly bring us joy, the more our joy expands.
6. What Makes You Laugh About Yourself?
True humility comes with a sense of humor. When we realize how funny our foibles are, we stop taking them so seriously.
What’s a mistake you recently made? What’s something totally embarrassing and human you have done? What’s goofy about you that makes you chuckle?
When we gain the ability to soften around our humanity—to stop trying so hard to be perfect or the most beautiful, productive, successful or best and instead embrace ourselves just as we are—there is a softness about us that naturally leads us to be more likable, understanding, and loving toward others.
This is not the bully kind of laughing at your self that is mean and critical. This is the sheepish kind of laughter that is kind and magnetic, the sort of humility when we don’t take ourselves too seriously and are authentically okay with not always being okay.
When we dare to see and accept ourselves—all of ourselves, the quality of our lives improve.
7. What Do You Really Want to Create?
Having a sense of purpose makes life better. Research backs this up. Research has shown that even at the end of life, having a project that gives a sense of purpose improves the quality of life. It also makes us more confident. We remember our value. We remember we matter. And we have something worthwhile to dive into when we need a positive distraction.
What is something you really, really want to create? What is something you want to create for others to enjoy? What is a pursuit that makes your heart sing?
It doesn’t have to be your job or business. It might be a garden or an artistic project. It might be creating a beautiful nurturing home. Whatever it is, make time for whatever it is that your soul is calling you to create in this moment, this week, and this lifetime. Pouring your whole self into it will make your life better.
8. What Isn’t Working (and What Are You Doing About It)?
What are those small things that are nagging you? What are you doing about them? Rather than complaining (which we all do), what’s your plan? What can you do today to start fixing them?
There is so much in our lives that are out of our control, but there is a lot that is in our control that we often don’t take time to do.
The small stuff matters, whether it’s clutter, wanting to be more in shape, or cleaning up your neighborhood. If there’s something you find yourself complaining about a lot (even if it’s just in the privacy of your mind), what is one simple step you can take today to improve it?
Little steps go a long way when done consistently and strung all together. Just for today, choose to do one small thing to make your life better. Maybe your biggest complaint will one day become your greatest turn-around story.
9. What Helps You Turn Things Around?
What is your unique strategy for turning things around when life isn’t going as well as you’d like it to? What helps you to reach out, forgive, repair relationships, or find things to be grateful for in difficult moments?
What helps you turn around when you’re heading down a path towards being in a bad mood? What helps you change your mindset, take your power back when feeling overwhelmed, and choose to do good in the world and your own heart?
There is not a simple formula for living a quality of life. Only you know what works best for you. Only you can turn your mood, relationships, self-care, and life around. Only you can change a ho-hum moment into one of the best of your life.
Asking the above nine questions can help you uncover your personal formula for improving the quality of your life. You might want to bookmark this article and over the next nine days, ask yourself one of these questions, one per day.
Journal about it, discuss it with a friend. Be on the lookout for your personal ah-has.
You already have the formula you need to improve the quality of your life. You just have to uncover it and apply what your soul already knows about how to create the best life for you.
More on Improving Your Quality of Life
- How to Live Your Best Life
- How to Live a Full Life With No Regrets
- The Secrets to Balancing Work and Family Life
Featured photo credit: chris liu via unsplash.com