Are You Asking the Right Questions?

PQPR (2)I recently heard my pastor tell the following story:

A college professor entered the empty classroom and wrote on the blackboard. As the students arrived and took their places he revealed the board and announced, “These are your exam questions. Please begin. I am going to be writing the exam questions for the next period on the other board — you can ignore those.”
One student arrived late to the exam. Seeing the instructor writing questions, he assumed those were for his class.
He responded correctly to every question. He failed the exam. Why?
He was working with the wrong questions.

The pastor tied the story to a scriptural theme. For me personally, the story holds additional meaning in the context of Happiness, Leadership, and my life and business.

Am I Asking the Right Questions?

How often am I keeping busy, yet without asking, “am I focusing on the right things?” How can I build an effective plan for Life or Work if I am working on the wrong priorities? Am I asking the right questions of myself?
Following is a set of questions I’ve created for my own reflection as I plan for a fabulous 2014. I invite you to ponder a few of these for yourself.

Eight Questions You Must Answer To Be Your Best and Most Powerful Self

  • What do I stand for? Your personal core values serve as a filtering device, helping you make better decisions about yourself right now and for your future. Your values help you remain true to what you believe. When you are aligned with your values, you support your own deeper happiness. If you are leader, parent, or influencer of others, consistently living your own values makes you stronger and more credible with those in your downstream. If you cannot answer this question, download this Core Values Worksheet.
  • What are my top three priorities (and how am I honoring those in my life)? Have you built your life around the “big rocks” in your priority jar, or is your calendar filled up with the gravel and sand of tiny tasks that crowd out the big stuff? Example: the most common skipped “priority” that my clients lament is self-care. If you say, “I don’t have time to work out,” you might ask yourself, “so, you have time to die early?”
  • What should I Let Go of? Every thing you are hanging on to means one less new thing you have the capacity to pick up. That grudge you hold eats away at your emotional health. That story you hang onto about what you can or can’t do holds you back from learning and growing. Every job duty you insist “only I can do” signals to your boss that you’re not ready for more responsibility, and signals to your team that you don’t trust them.Letting Go is a powerful tool to nurture in you.
  • What am I open to learning? No matter your age or occupation, when you stop learning you start falling behind. My mother is 79 and blind, so she listens to books on tape to keep her brain sharp. Perhaps what is calling to you is new technology, or dabbling in the arts, or expanding your professional competencies.What is a new skill you might commit to picking up in the next year?
  • What voices am I listening to? What do those voices have to say about the world? Are you surrounded by doomsayers and Negative Neds? If so, notice that while they may often be right (about disasters and terrible things happening in the world) they are missing the other half of what is true. Media in all forms thrives on finding and repeating the worst, which feeds a cycle of despair.Tune into some positive people and positive channels to remind yourself that there is much good in the world.
  • What brings me Joy? Build a list of 50 to 100 items that evoke Joy in you. Notice how few of those are “things”. Look for ways to create those moments more often. When you’re having a bad day, simply pull out the list for a quick read.
  • Where can I create more balance? Consider the eight major domains of your life: Friends & Family; Romance & Relationships; Career; Money; Health; Fun and Personal Development; Spirituality; and Physical Environment. Rate each on a 1-10 scale (10 is high) then ask, “which need the most attention from me in the next year?” Identify an action you might take in one or two areas to create more balance across your life.
  • What Stories do I want to tell about myself? You have a lot of Stories about yourself: “I’m the Responsible One. I’m a victim. I’m a good writer. That’s just the way I am. I’m not creative. I’m really good with people. I’m horrible with numbers. I work better under pressure. I already know <that>.” Some of your stories are empowering, some not so much. When you track each one back, I promise you’ll find it was planted in you by someone else. If the story works, great. If it is no longer serving you, notice you have the power to plant a new story. Starting now.

I can offer dozens of other great questions (after all, I’m a coach — it’s what I DO!) The above will get you started.
If you’re looking for something more short term, here are Seven Great Questions you can use every day.

Resources for Planning a Fabulous 2014

Cheryl and I spend a day in early January reviewing our past year and planning the next. We talk about our relationship, vacation plans, finances, and projects for the upcoming year and beyond.
If you want to improve the probability you will have a great year in 2014, I invite you to download Jim Smith’s Annual Planning Kit. Choose from the Couple’s Planning Kit or the Individual Planning Kit.

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