The power of a good question cannot be quantified.
Or of a good question-er, for that matter.
Conversely, people who are poor at creating the questions which lead them to the next level, whether that be in a relationship, in their career, or in their business bewilder me. Moreover, As a result of their lack of curiosity, they languish at their current level of (under) functioning.
Questions unlock doors; they open up spaces. When people ask good questions and then listen to the answers, they come away with a new perspective and possible action steps that make their life, or the life of others better. Similarly, You have the opportunity to shift your business into new places which, prior to asking these questions, you might not have even thought about.
Here are two questions which are thought-provoking:
Are you proud of the choices you are making at home?
Are you proud of the choices you are making at work?
These alone can chart your course for the rest of the year.
Or, how about this one:
What do you need today?
You can ask this question of yourself—something rare and difficult to do. However, even more daring and profoundly impacting, what if you ask your closest loved ones? Or your employees? Or your customers?
And don’t let them shrug it off with ‘I don’t know’.
Yet, all too often we stay lodged in our superficial sureness and our schedules, never bothering to venture out into another person’s deeper experience, including our own. As a consequence, we miss incredible opportunities to grow and improve the service we bring to others.
Here is another important question:
What next action will move my business or life forward?
If asked, and action follows, the previous question can absolutely change your life and move your business forward to the next level.
Notice good questions.
2. Write them down.
3. And lastly, ask them.
The positive changes they bring about will amazing you.
Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work in potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is
to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work. – Steven Pressfield.
You know it is there. It pulls against you. It makes your eyelids heavy. It makes your mind wander. It makes you want to check Twitter or Facebook ‘just one more time’ before you get down to what you really need to be doing. It causes you to absentmindedly say, ‘uhm hm’ to your child, who only wants you to look in their eyes and pay attention to them. It makes you hungry for a snack the moment you pick up your paintbrush or sit down with your laptop to write.
Pressfield calls this the Resistance.
I know Resistance. And I hate him.
When I sit down to write, suddenly, I need to check my e-mail. My bathrooms need
to be cleaned. My dog’s toenails need to be clipped. Oh. Have you noticed that something in
the fridge stinks? I should clean that out. It feels like Spring. Perhaps I should get those leaves
raked up. My throat hurts. And, actually, if I pay attention to it, my head hurts too. I start thinking about how little I see my friends now. Maybe I’m a worthless friend. Maybe I suck at life. I could be a better parent, better wife … I am the worst. I probably am not in the best frame of mind to write. Maybe I should wait until later this afternoon when I feel better. And what was I going to write about anyway? It’s not like I have anything of value to say.
Here is where it lands. The Resistance starts out by telling you about all the things you should do instead of this venture you feel called to and it ends up assaulting your personhood – telling you that you have no business doing this thing, because you are deficient, less-than and small.
I am not small. I have something to offer. I have something of value to bring. And so do you.
You know how there are things that get your ire up? For some of you, it is competition, for others of you it might be someone telling you to do something. For me, it is when something gets in my way and blocks my goals. That frustrates me INTO action. Nothing galvanizes me more than when someone tells me I can’t do something. And that is what the Resistance is all about. When I recognize it (and for me, that is the issue), I can fight it.
Some things that help me fight well:
1- Knowing what I am using my primary energy for.
Making a choice to narrow it down. I want to be a painter, but this is not the season of my life to do this. Right now, I am focusing on being a coach – on perfecting my coaching skills and helping people overcome their hurdles. There will be other times to paint. I want to do more writing … but it is not my PRIMARY energy. Building my coaching business is my primary (meaningfirst or highest in rank or importance).
What do you want to prioritize? You have to KNOW. It can’t be vague and it can’t be six different things. Because to work on everything is to make progress in almost nothing. Are you focused on being a better parent? Too vague. Try, “I am working on praising him for something every day – seeing the best in him.”
2- Knowing what will help me.
TIME. ACTION. FEEDBACK. REPEAT. I have set aside 1/2 day a week to develop my marketing. That means, I sit my bottom in a chair and I don’t move until something has shown up on my website. Periodically I submit my message to someone who gives me feedback. I revise and do it all over again.
Right now, I have little to show for it, because I’m at the front end of it all. But I have to believe that a consistent application of time and effort will yield results at some point. It has to, because this is the way life works. If you want to get physically fit, you can’t do it once a week – you have be put regular time into it. If you want a better marriage, being engaged on date night only is not going to connect you like it would if you were relationally investing every day.
What will help you do what you are called to do?
3 – Knowing what pulls me away from my goal.
I don’t schedule ANYTHING during my marketing blocks. No doctor’s appointments, no dentists, no grocery shopping. Web work only. No phone calls. Working on the business ONLY. Because I require blocks of time to get into the “zone” and I’m highly distractible. When I get pulled out, it’s hard for me to go back. You may not be that way, this is me I’m talking about.
What pulls YOU away? The internet? Putzing around the house? Letting other people’s stuff become your stuff? I do understand that you probably don’t have the gift of time like I have right now – and up until this year I didn’t have it either. There are seasons where its difficult to even find 5 minutes. But you perhaps don’t need the volume of time I need to accomplish your calling. Each of us is different in the art that we bring.
The real question is – what pulls you away from your art? (and by art, I mean the thing that you do best that you bring to the world). Figure out what hinders your forward movement and don’t just fight it withwill power – come up with a way to actually address and deal with the hindrance.
Another thing that saps my energy and dissuades me is conflict. I cannot access my deep heart when I am upset. I feel this part of me is integral to my creativity and productivity. So I avoid conflictual situations that I can have no bearing on. I stay out of political wrangling. I avoid theological bantering. I’m not interested in being loudly opinionated about anything. I am not saying I don’t have strong convictions – I do. But there is a time and a place where my words and voice accomplish something – I’m all for that. But ineffectual energy, hissing out of my soul like a tire losing air – that is not good use of me. It serves no one and it’s exhausting.
What do you need to curtail in order to focus your energy?
4 – Knowing who has your back.
I need people who remind me that I can do it. People who encourage me and who tell me that they love me. People who are excited about my latest venture and can say, “I see you succeeding” – even when I can’t. Especially when I can’t.
Do you know who your people are? The ones who will gently hold you accountable and who will love you? If you don’t have people like that in your life, the way to acquire them is to start BEING that person for someone else.
5- Knowing who is ultimately in control.
I believe in a God who designed me for something. And when I live out that best
version of me, when I live out God’s breath in me … I am most fully alive and shed positive
light onto what it is to have a relationship with Him.
So I pray.
For insight. For my path to intersect with people smarter and more talented than I am. For strength to fight the Resistance. For love to give to people well with my limited time. For ears to hear Him and a will to respond. For growth and maturity.
I pray for courage to live out the me I was designed to be.
I just discovered a new blog – a couple of minimalists who are straight shooters and serious about simplifying their lives.
The thing I noticed in reading about simplifying is that stuff weighs us down. Excess poundage, too many clothes, too many items on the wall, too many things in our drawers. I know whenever I do a purge of things in a drawer that I never use, there is a sense of being able to breathe easier.
The last few months, about once a week, I get into my closet and I ask: Is there something I can get rid of today? Usually, I can find one thing. I have a place where I keep these items for about a month to see if I ever regret putting it there … and I never have yet.
We are overloaded with STUFF.
I’m a little bit dreading the holiday season and wondering how I can bless my friends and family with something of value but not just one more thing to gather dust.
It’s not just physical objects that weigh us down. Some of us have more relationships than we can actually nurture. Often, we are trying to change more aspects of us than are possible. Even spiritually, if you focus on too many ideas or habits, you actually achieve none of them.
Less really is more. Remove one thing from your “to do” list, or your “should” category, or your garage … it will give you more energy to focus on what remains. Over time, this gives you distilled space and thought.
Why do we avoid doing what we know we ought to do? Especially when it creates so much more stress for ourselves in the long run.
I believe it comes down to short term gains.
It is easier right NOW to do nothing. And so I (we) put off what should be done today for the momentary relief of procrastination. While the adult part of us knows that this problem is not going to go away and, in fact, will only become worse, still, the inner child begs for more time. Sometimes the child wins.
Here are some ideas that sometimes help me:
Enlist help. It is not always possible to delegate the things that you are procrastinating, but sometimes it IS an option.
Tell someone that you will do it and let them hold you accountable. I am part of a Facebook group for writers. We tell each other what we intend to do at the beginning of the week. Sometimes, just the fact that I have told someone I will do something helps me actually do it.
Get more information. Sometimes there are other ways to go about your problem. I am terrifies of the dentist, despite the fact that he’s nice. I’ve been putting off an appointment for a YEAR now. A compromise that I arrived at to help me more forward: I intend on scheduling an appointment to have my teeth cleaned, but NOT worked on, no matter what is wrong with them. And, I’m going to ask about alternate forms of anesthesia.
Give yourself a reward for completing the difficult task. I had the large task of setting up a new website. It was daunting because I’m not all that technologically savvy (or at least I was less so before I actually did it)! I promised myself a new pair of earrings that I had been looking at once the site was up and running.
What things have helped you when you are tempted to avoid things? Add to this list. We can all use each other’s wisdom!
Recently, I flew to another city. Right before I landed, I looked out the window and was spell-bound by the thousand-foot vantage of the neighborhoods below. This is something I do on every flight – but this time, I had a different experience.
Usually, when I see all the houses and cars and streets, I become overwhelmed with the population. I think, “Every car down there has someone in it and they each have a story.” Each house has a family, complete with their own drama. I am up here enclosed in this flying tube of metal and they are down there, laughing, fighting, living, dying. Then my brain explodes as I extrapolate this to city after city across the country, the continent and then the world. I think, “How can this possibly work? How do all of us continue to exist? What kind of infrastructure does this require?” About this time I shut down emotionally (which is ok, because by then we have landed and my inner rhetoric is usurped by deplaning).
This time, however, my brain had a new thought:
If I could get a message to each and every person down there, what would that message be? What would I want each of them to know?
(Now each of us has a spiritual background, even if that background is to believe nothing – complete with its own set of messages. But this is not actually what this post is about. What I am really talking about is what is YOUR message? in addition to the ideological one?)
I have been pondering this for quite some time – a couple of years, actually – and the last 8 weeks intensely.
Ever trying to narrow my focus and hear my Voice, I believe my message (at least at this writing) is this: You have a choice. You can engage in ways that matter – or not.
With each encounter, you can choose to treat people like objects or like a means to an end (think: check-out person at the grocery store) or like a goal-blocking hindrance (sometimes bosses, children, aging parents) or a paycheck (any client, patient, customer), OR you can see them as HUMAN BEINGS – with feelings, needs, issues, talents, etc.
We each get to choose, multiple times a day how we will interact with this God-breathed creature in front of us.
I regularly fail and succeed at this throughout the day. When I am self-absorbed, stressed, trying to keep my ducks in a row, I treat those around me with less Grace than I wish. I am basically a nice person, so I’m rarely overtly rude, but on those days when I am into my own agenda, I am not always warm. In those moments, I don’t extend a molecule of energy beyond me that I don’t have to. This is part of the introvert curse. But really, the issue is that I don’t SEE the other person – not really. I only see their shell – what they present to me in their particular role.
On the other hand, if I access the part of me that wants to value people, a different ‘me’ shows up. I smile more. I actually make small talk with the person cutting my hair or the teller at the bank. If I acknowledge that every interaction is a chance to bring something to the other person – even if that is summed up by actually looking in their eyes and valuing them for those few seconds, then I have somehow become more human myself.
On my first flight, I did something I’ve never done before – I gave up the coveted isle seat and moved to the dreaded middle one on the other side of the plane, offering my place to a mom who was separated from her 5-year-old son. She assured me that he would be good on the flight, assuming that I didn’t want to sit by the boy; but that isn’t why I offered to switch.
I remember my own little people. They would have been so uncomfortable and sad to be separated from me – even if they could see me across the row. They would have wanted to be with me.
The mother grudgingly accepted my offer, feeling bad for putting me out. But really, it was fine. As the plane was landing, the boy had issues with the change in air pressure and I saw him snuggled up against his mommy, his head in her lap, and she was stroking his hair and telling him to yawn and chew his gum. I was SO glad I had switched; not for me – for them. In that moment of offering my seat, I feel I had an interaction that mattered. (Which felt great.)
We get these opportunities to value those around us dozens of times each day, sadly, missing most of them. Unfortunately, it is so easy to not see people at all. Unless you get deliberate about it. One choice, one engagement at a time.