13 Life Questions to Ask Yourself

Many experts say your blog should be consistent in theme, and no one does that better than Bob Tiede, whose Leading with Questions blog does, in fact, focus on questions almost exclusively.

A recent guest post by Dr. Travis Bradberry detailing 13 Questions That Will Change Your Life especially captured my attention. After reading it, I thought, if I could truly focus on answering these 13 questions for myself, and take action on my candid answers, I could be in a better place emotionally and serve those around me more fully.

Writing about all that could lead to a novel rather than a blog, though, so I am giving myself 100 words per question. Let’s see how that turns out. Or, in the spirit of the “questions” blog, “How will that idea pan out?”

Question 1: How do people see me differently than I see myself? 

My Weaving Influence coworkers gave me a “virtual going away party” recently. When Becky asked me if I wanted to record it, I declined. No one participating in a video call (unless it’s with a client) really goes into it prepared to be recorded. I suppose the comments that meant the most were about my patience, my authenticity, and my ability to help visual learners understand concepts. The last is something I have been told periodically over the years, and it usually makes me wonder why I haven’t pursued some type of training responsibilities in my work life.

Self Examination

A quick shot I grabbed of my virtual going-away party.

Question 2: What/Whom did I make better today?

I suppose a flip of this question is to ask every morning, “what/whom can I make better today?” I’m at a pretty funky place about this question right now. Of course I have a commitment to trying to make things around me better, but we can make things worse when we think we are making them better. And my continuing fatigue two months after Dad passed away reminds me that recovery from a life-changing event isn’t immediate. At the risk of sounding selfish, I think I need to put my own oxygen mask on first right now.

Question 3: Am I being true to my values?

My biggest “aha” recently has been around family dinner time (great timing since we’re now an empty nest eh?). When Wayne Kevin’s girlfriend started eating dinner with us more often, we actually started moving the laptops away from the dining room table, he stopped taking his dinner to his room to consume while playing video games, and …. we talked! I may not be able to convince my husband to move his laptop during dinners, but I can do something about ME. I can pay attention to my food and the people at the table again. People matter most.

Question 4: If I achieved all of my goals, how would I feel? What can I do to feel that way as I work to achieve them?

In June, I wrote a post in which I recommitted to having written goals. This question’s reference to “all of my goals” is a pretty broad thing. But baby steps make a difference, and in June I told everyone that I would improve my Spanish, eat better, and move more. I committed to enroll in Berlitz’s online Spanish program, but allowed frugality to stop me. $99 may be a small leap but as of this writing, I am enrolled! ¡Bueno! I committed to eat better and move more. Time to whip up a salad and go for a walk.

Question 5: What haven’t I taken the time to learn about?

From a practical standpoint, it would be in my absolute best interest to learn more about WordPress, especially the back end and coding, so I could be less dependent on others. Next up, also a practical thing: learning to drive a standard transmission. It’s been on my list since we got my son’s car, which is manual. We have had it since November 2015; although he has moved away, the car was here in Tallahassee, the best car in the family, and I was relegated to my older car with the non-functioning air conditioning because I couldn’t drive his.

Question 6: In what areas of my life am I settling?

Life is a balancing act, and I would argue “settling” is sometimes a necessity and not that much of a sacrifice. I love well-tailored clothes and pricier pieces, but with two kids in college and some debt obligations I created for myself, forgoing some fashion fun is not the end of the world to me. I have, though, “settled” for staying put – I haven’t driven hard enough to do some of the overseas traveling I want to do, and that is a harder pill to swallow.

Question 7: What do I want my life to be like in five years?

I would like for my debt to be drastically reduced if not gone. For my daughter to have a career she loves and be personally happy. Ditto for my son. This may sound superficial, but I want my house to be cleaner and I’ve lived with myself long enough to know that means hiring someone to do it. I want less house and more travel. And to be connected with a cause (or causes), with the flexibility to give my time freely and travel to support those causes.

Question 8: What would I do if I wasn’t scared?

This one doesn’t take a hundred words: WRITE THE BOOK.

Question 9: Who has qualities that I aspire to develop?

I have a counterpoint question to this: Why is it so hard to balance the message “you are enough” and “there’s only one you” with the fact that other people’s qualities sometimes lead you to ask “why can’t I be more like [name of awesome person]?” But in the spirit of answering the question: the sales/business/promotion savvy of my former boss, Becky; the “I can move mountains and did” chutzpah of another former boss, Rose Naff. The writing chops of Jodi Picoult, Mark King and Ann Patchett (this list could go on and on…). The humanity of Malala.

Question 10: What problem are we solving?

Given my background in crisis counseling and mental health, I can count on the fingers of my two hands the times I have asked “closed-ended questions” when talking with someone about a problem over the past few decades. I’m also a big believer in finding root causes rather than being distracted by symptoms. In our current tension-fraught times, I would argue that there is a deeper challenge to be resolved than can be managed solely by taking down statues (without having a plan for dialogue and some way to document the context).

Question 11: What’s stopping me from doing the things that I should be doing?

Usually, when I feel “stuck” from making progress toward a goal, I determine to at least take a baby step. While “some progress” is usually a positive, I wonder if it has become a bit of a coping mechanism for me. I could argue that financial challenges are “stopping me” but I am also pretty creative about finding my way around those. I think I am failing to “ask for more” when I could probably get more. I love writing so much I do it for free, but why don’t I take the step of sending more queries for paid projects?

Question 12: Will you be my mentor?

Travis Bradberry says, “Everyone likes being looked up to, and it feels good to share our knowledge with others” in explaining why he recommends having a mentor and why people who are asked rarely turn down the request. This is one I’ll keep thinking about.

Question 13: What’s the most important lesson I’ve learned so far in life? Am I living that lesson?

Almost every day, I think about sitting in the car with Wayne, leaving our neighborhood, and him asking “did you call Ann (his sister)?” We were in the process of buying a townhouse from, her, we had gotten some painting done that was agreed to as part of the process, and he wanted me to let her know. I wasn’t in a hurry to make a phone call, so I put it off. She died in her sleep roughly nine hours later. It would have been a cut-and-dried conversation about a home repair detail, but I would have heard her voice. The lesson? Don’t assume you have the luxury of time.

What are YOUR hard questions?

Travis Bradberry closes by saying, “Asking the hard questions can be extremely uncomfortable. But we don’t learn and grow by sticking with what’s comfortable.”

He is right. Ask the questions. Give yourself grace to explore the “what if’s” while protecting your deepest “self” from the fact that other people may want you to adopt their hopes/opinions as your own.

Self Examination

Tell Me About Yourself, Mom

In his post, 10 Questions to Ask Your Mom or Grandma on Mother’s Day, Bob Tiede shared ten questions to help us get to know our moms better. I love the questions but feel shy to ask them of my mom, so I decided to answer them from my perspective; maybe my kids will be interested someday.

1. What are your favorite memories of times you spent with your Grandparents?

I don’t think I would have called them my favorite times when I was a kid, but in retrospect, all the times we spent on my Granny and Pa’s porch (my mom’s parents) shelling peas and just “visiting.”

2. What was your grade school like?  What do you remember about your favorite teacher?

I went to two. Roosevelt Roads Elementary (we were stationed in Puerto Rico in the Navy) for kindergarten through part of second grade, then W.E. Cherry Elementary School once we moved back to Orange Park.

Interviewing Mothers

Thank you to pinner Maria Norman for this picture.

I don’t remember disliking any teachers in elementary school. She wasn’t a teacher but (surprise!) I really loved the library, Mrs. Derbonne.

Interviewing Mothers

My friend and I shared a day visiting my childhood home and elementary school in January.

3. Who was your best friend? And what did the two of you like to do?

Easy peasy. Paula Young (now Jordan). We became friends because we both have the same first name. We ended up in different places for high school, but every visit we pick up precisely where we left off before.

What did we like to do? We were in band, we both enjoyed academics. Otherwise I would say “hanging out.”

She is deeply loyal, terrifically bright, and determined to serve her family and her business well (she does!). I love her.

Interviewing Mothers

Paula and me in August 2016 in New Orleans

4. What kind of things did you do as a kid that got you into trouble at home or school?

For the most part, I was ridiculously compliant. RIDICULOUSLY. My most memorable transgressions:

  1. I didn’t clean my room enough (some things never change)
  2. I got pulled out of English class in the 10th grade and scolded for being too chatty with my cousin, Deneen. I was mortified; she was amused that I was mortified.
  3. There was the time I stole baby Jesus, though.

5. Growing up what did you want to be?

I think my rotation was similar to lots of kids (waitress, teacher, that type of thing). I was on a “missionary” kick for a while (and spent the summer after high school knocking on doors all over St. Lucie County hoping to save souls). But the one that comes closest to being a “regret” is not pursuing something medical.

6. Outside of the family, what was the very first job you had that you got paid for?

Babysitting was first, but the first one that made a huge impression, the one I still think about every day, was being a cashier at Spires IGA.

7. How did you meet Dad? How did he ask you to marry him?

Blind date! We went to the Huey Lewis and the News Concert, a setup arranged by our mutual friend Cherie who has declared herself out of the matchmaker business now that she had one success.

I broke up with him in 1989 and moved to NYC to “take my bite out of the big apple.” Over the almost-three years I was there, we progressively took the steps that led to us deciding to get married. I kept telling him I wasn’t ready. One time, when I had just gotten back to New York, I called him and said yes. He officially gave me my ring on the pier at Lake Butler.

8. What is the hardest thing that you ever had to do in your life?

Along with Dad and Aunt Mary, tell Grandma and Grandpa that Uncle Chuck had committed suicide.

9. What is the greatest compliment that you have ever received?

Someone who had been a little kid when I was a teenager working with the children’s choir at First Baptist friended me on Facebook YEARS LATER. It took me a bit to remember her (new last name, no longer four years old) but once my brain was engaged, she said “you made a difference.” I never knew.

10. What is one thing you still want to do that you have never done?  (What is still on your “Bucket List?”)

I still want to be fluent in Spanish. I am so disappointed in myself that I haven’t made more progress toward that. I want to get out of debt. Go to Europe.

Bonus Question:  If your Mom (Grandma) is a Follower of Jesus, ask:  Is there a story you can share about how you came to be a Follower of Jesus?

For me, my spiritual life has been an evolution from doing what I thought I should do spiritually, to doing what most brings me in Communion with the holy trinity. I am *thrilled* Tenley has a church relationship she loves and have enjoyed going to church with Wayne Kevin. No matter what denominations they choose, first and foremost I hope they make time every week to turn to something bigger about themselves.