Updated: Jan 31, 2020
You know what’s crazy? So many of us go through our lives as total strangers to ourselves. OMG! This is simply because we never pause long enough for moments of self-reflection. We are so busy coming and going and often, we are busy seeking answers to other people’s problems that we forget to ask questions for our own well-being. Ouch. This isn’t wise.
Just a thought here, but I think wisdom is not about knowing all the answers every minute; it’s about asking the right questions. In the long run, the simple questions you ask yourself on a regular basis could determine the type of person you become.
For several years now I have intentionally slowed my life down on Sundays. I purposely get alone just for a bit, maybe an hour. I usually set aside some dedicated “Michael Brown time...me time”– a personal timeout for self-reflection and self-inquiry – to ask myself questions like these:
1. What pleasant surprises did I discover this week?
Some of my best discoveries have come when I least expect them, in places I never even thought to look. What I was not looking for can end up being more than I ever hoped to find. So, seek your hopes and dreams with passion, but don’t be so strict that you develop tunnel vision. Do not blind yourself from all the unpredictable wonders and opportunities passing in your outside of your focus.
You are never too old, too young, too busy, or too educated to find value and joy in new, unexpected opportunities. Stay on the lookout and keep track of these pleasant surprises. Be sure not to lose them in the business of your weekly routines.
2. What lessons did my week teach me that I could build upon next week?
This question always helps me clarify the distinction between activity and achievement. There will always be routines and mundane tasks that require you to go through the motions, but what else did you learn from your life this week? What was learned that could be built upon? Surely there were successes and failures – ideas that worked and those that didn’t. Think about these events and extract what is useful.
3. Are my short-term efforts and long-term goals still aligned?
It’s not what you do or achieve every once in a while, (big picture), but what you do every day (small picture) that counts. Dream big dreams, but realize that short-term, realistic goals are the key to success. What you want to achieve is directly connected to your daily actions. The way you spend your time defines who you are and who you will become.
4. What could I have spent more or less time doing?
Stephen Covey once said, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” In other words, productivity is not just about getting things done, it’s about getting the right things done.
5. How did fear and uncertainty affect what I did and didn’t do?
Not knowing which path to take can be painful, but nothing is more disheartening than standing still and never making a decision at all. This is why it’s extremely important to think about your fears and address them on a weekly basis. You must stop them, so they don’t stop you from moving forward with your life.
6. What mental clutter can I clear?
Just as you don’t move from one place to another without first sorting your belongings, and leaving behind what is not useful or needed, so too should you follow the same process with what you’ve mentally gathered, before moving on. Do some purging and clear some clutter.
7. What is the first logical step for next week?
Next week is a new beginning – a blank canvas upon which you have the delightful opportunity to create. On Monday morning you will be standing at the start of an impressive adventure, with the very real and present opportunity to shape your present and future in exactly the way you see fit.
What did I miss? What other questions would be good to ask oneself at the end of the week? What moved you from this lesson?