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

2017 Goals: Announcements and Moves

I still believe that, to paraphrase Brian Tracy, “Only 3% of people have written goals and the other 97% work for them.” While I am not dying to have lots of people working for me, I think the principle applies to success in general. We are more likely to succeed when we document our goals (and seek accountability).

Somewhere along the way, I stopped writing my goals down. Six years ago apparently. SIX. YEARS. AGO. My last “here are my goals” post was in 2011.

Now it is 2017, and a couple of catalysts are calling me out of the goal-less quagmire:

My friend Laura Petrolino wrote this post that outlines the four reasons we fail to reach our goals (hey! I’m 4 for 4!).

My friend (and Laura’s boss) Gini shared a motivational recording with the PR Dream Team that gave me a kick in the butt.

My personal aspirations the last three years have become increasingly hemmed in by my father-in-law’s caregiving needs. As his time with us is finite, I am going to wake up in the not-too-distant future and ……be free of the obligations/excuses/responsibilities that come with caregiving.

It’s long past time to write down some goals

Number One: Improve my Spanish

The “become fluent in Spanish” goal began long, long ago when our family was stationed in Puerto Rico. As a kindergartner, I took Spanish. The seed was planted.

Even though I took Spanish in high school, and minored in Spanish in college, I am nowhere near fluent. I joined a bilingual Toastmasters club to improve. Although the club is great, and my speakings skills improved significantly, it wasn’t the best choice to improve my Spanish specifically (we were allowed to give speeches in English and frankly I defaulted to that 90% of the time — it takes a long time to put together a speech in Spanish.)

The plan: I’m going to do Berlitz’s online self-paced program, partially because I can get an initial assessment that will give me some type of objective bar for improvement. I’m still going to seek some local (and less costly) option for conversation practice.

Number Two: Improve my nutrition

I am heavier than I have ever been. Heavier than during either pregnancy. I haven’t made peace with my inability to run due to multifocal atrial tachycardia but it’s time for the excuses to stop. Maybe the issue is I have been running to the refrigerator instead of around the block!

I’ve tried to explain emotional/stress eating to a couple of significant people in my life, and a not uncommon response is “just stop eating.” I wish it were that easy!

The plan: For now, I’m starting with a very small, but hopefully beneficial step. I’m increasing the amount of fruit I eat per day. This involves (gasp!) buying healthy food in advance at the grocery store. Publix, here I come.

Number Three: Reinvigorate my exercise routine

Numbers two and three are closely related, Exercise should probably precede nutrition, but they are connected.  Running is out for now and I can finally say that without crying, But the list of things that are not out is much longer than I have been willing to acknowledge: walking (duh), yoga, indoor cycling, most boot camp/rowing activities as long as I take my beta blocker in advance and swallow my pride when I have to sit out a running drill.

The plan: For now, walk a mile every day.

Goal Setting

Goals in the Wings

If you are reading this, I would love your involvement in keeping me accountable for the three above! Hablo español conmigo, eat healthy things with me, or let’s go for a walk.

But the three-goal trio is not all. Here are two other goals.

More Learning!

I am always up for more learning. Always. But to be specific. I am considering getting a Pharmacy Tech certificate so there is something flexible and easily accessible I can do once Dad passes away.

Secondly, I love my freelance work for Smartbrief and want to position myself to do similar/more responsible work with them or another similar organization. I mean, I managed to break up with the Oxford comma (painfully) so why not keep drinking the AP Style koolaid?

Book

Ironically, my freelance job at Weaving Influence revolves around helping authors expand their digital presence. I love helping authors promote their books, but in the back of my head, always is a little writerly voice asking, “when are you going to be promoting your own work?”

I have kind of evolved from considering writing about Camp Gordon Johnson to writing about caregiving, with an emphasis on the ironic humor of the whole caregiving situation but a healthy dose of useful advice too.

What now?

I scrolled through Pinterest (What? You go elsewhere for inspiration?!) and this quote from The.Success.Club struck me:

Goal Setting

Let’s call this blog the “announcements part.”

Now it’s time for the moves.

Geneva’s Train

I have the good fortune of participating in an incredible group of bloggers via Midlife Boulevard. In addition to the online magazine focusing on women over 40, we have a Facebook group for support, content sharing, and the occasional joke or two! In 2016, we are spending January adding a blog maintenance tip per day. When we started the series, one of the first tasks was to define our goals.

My four-part goal included “write once in a while just for the sake of writing……not for anyone else’s message but my own.” Point being: I love writing about causes and am really enjoying writing sponsored posts, but I truly believe good writing springs from writing for the sake of writing. Therefore, I am going to plan to write once a month (at least) just to write, not from anyone else’s talking points or guidelines. My writing has started feeling so uninspired to me; I am afraid I have forgotten how to paint pictures with my words, and that would be a loss.

Keeping that goal in mind, I am using an inspiration from the SITS Girls 31 Days of January Writing Prompts (I may want to write for the sake of writing but I still needed a little starter spark!). Finish this story: A girl, sitting alone on a rock at the edge of the woods, jumps when she hears…

Geneva’s Train

A girl, sitting alone on a rock at the edge of the woods, jumps when she hears the spurt of air explode out of a can of carbonated beverage as its top is popped. The owner of the can could be her brother (opening a Pepsi), her mother (opening a Diet Coke), her father (opening a beer), or her grandfather (opening a beer).

No matter who it is, they are interrupting Geneva’s reverie. Her mind, along with every iota of her imagination, was deeply involved in the book in her hands and now the flow has been disrupted.

“Whoever it is, how can I get them to go away so I can get back to my book?” she wondered. Her brother would be a temporary irritant; if she would refuse to engage, he would probably seek an easier target elsewhere (the kittens came to mind). Her mother would want her to do something (emptying the dishwasher came to mind). Her dad would want to probe her agenda for the upcoming week (committing the stories she had written to a flash drive came to mind). Her grandfather, who had short-term memory issues, would want to know (for the 50th time) if she had seen the postcard his granddaughter (her cousin) had sent from Paris.

WHY was it so hard for the people in her life to give her train of thought its due? Trains of thought did not always stay on track.

Sometimes, trains of thought stayed parked at the depot, unable to depart because there just wasn’t enough fuel to send them on a trip.

Sometimes, trains of thought became so overburdened with the weight of their heavy cargo that they lumbered along, clogging up the track for the other trains carrying lighter, more streamlined loads … the trains with logical agendas and contents that others were expecting.

Sometimes, trains of thought flew along the track, light as air, having been dispatched to someplace new to Geneva, awaiting a load of ideas, fantasies, or outlandish plans.

This time, her train of thought faced a split track. The track of her book placed her within an arm’s reach of a protagonist named George, feeling a new and exhilarating lightheaded magic. In the book, he had already planted a garden, tamed a bucking bronco, and headed off a confrontation between two enemies. Wasn’t it her turn yet?

The other track led back to chores, an inquisition, or a boomerang into the old routine. Back to her regular life, and that stop was growing more mundane by the day.

Unable to contain her curiosity any longer, she sighed, shut the book, and turned.

What she had not guessed was that the can was being opened for HER.

“Sparkling water with essence of mint?” asked George.

And with George’s arrival, the train bellowed with the beauty of imagination and Geneva gave in to a flurry of delight, realizing that her dream had not been derailed.

Geneva's Train