In times of great sorrow or when faced with what seems like, insurmountable challenges, what often happens is that we keep asking the same questions, again and again. And if the answers we seek are not forthcoming, it is time to ask different questions.
Questions, ultimately, are the gatekeepers to our inner selves: the precious knowledge that defines our core, our treasured dreams and the small acorn from which all of our life’s possibilities can flourish and take shape. They are gateways, reflective mirrors into our psyches and our resources.
I have spoken about the power of reflective writing and journaling before, here, here and here, but today, I would like to share with you a list of questions that I hope will be revealing, empowering and a great tool to come back to in times of need.
All you have to do is set yourself some time for yourself, without distractions, take a piece of paper and a pen (this is important, we want to write by hand), and answer each of the following questions without any forethought or judgment.
1. What is possible for me right now that I wasn’t able to do last year?
This is an incredibly potent question. In difficult times, we tend to count all our misgivings, our hurts, our pains, our sorrows. What we fail to see, often, is what we can do.
What a powerful shift in our perspective! how empowering and uplifting to switch the focus and entertain, even for just a little bit, the possibilities, the hope, the choices fostered by change.
Think of the abilities you’ve acquired in the past year, what you’ve learned about yourself and others, every chance and opportunity that came your way, including the struggles.
What have they opened up for you?
2. How do I want to feel?
What is a particularly challenging situation that you are facing right now?
Ask yourself: how do I ultimately want to feel about it? what is the overarching feeling: joy, harmony, resolution, peace, closure?
Feelings are powerful beings. They guide and direct us, for good or for worse But, we too can channel them and use them to serve us. One powerful step on this process is to CHOOSE, consciously, deliberately HOW WE WANT TO FEEL and actively pursue it, making that feeling a priority, provided it is in a constructive and adaptive manner and we do not cause harm to us and those around us in the long run.
Choose that feeling, that word, and use it as a mantra throughout the day to remind you of your stance and what you have chosen.
3. What can I enjoy more of?
What is within reach and can be savored with more gusto? or, what have I neglected to stop and enjoy thoroughly?
Perhaps it’s a relationship that has become comfortable and it’s been a while since we’ve acknowledged and celebrated the stability it’s given us. Or the comfort of our homes, the security of our jobs and the solace we find in our beloved that have stood by our side time and time again.
If you look around you, really look around you, I bet that you will find so many things to be joyful for.
Make a list of them and keep it handy.
4. What is unique about me?
We are being constantly bombarded on social media with information on how to be, act, look, buy and do, imposing its own definition of what it means to be “successful”.
Due to this over stimulation, our own voices, dreams and hopes diminish and we become sucked into this overly filtered and curated world where we are being pushed products upon products, ideas, thoughts and ways of being, and we, unconsciously, absorb, absorb, absorb.
Most of us are being guided blindly by this, if left unchecked.
If you are feeling particularly confused, depressed and saddened for no particular reason after you scroll on Instagram/Facebook (I know I do at times) then mute, delete, unfollow and start “watering your own grass” by making a list with ALL the things you like about you, the things you are often praised for, the nice things others have said about you and the small and big ways you are helping others daily.
What combination of attributes, upbringing and personal experience have created this unique individual that is you and solely you? and what is the greatest gift that only you can bring others? and how can you cultivate more of your uniqueness?
You are a gift and enough just as you are.
5. What kind of experiences do i want to have?
As our lives unfold, it is important to stop once in a while and check in with ourselves.
What are our dreams? what are the things and experiences we’ve always wanted to have? what did we dream of when we were little, before school, life, work, social expectations and norms took over and left their mark on us?
When things feel muddy and unclear, the experiences we’re drawn to can signal the direction where our greatest joys and fulfillment may lie. If pursued, they could even turn into lucrative life-long careers.
Make a list of all the experiences you’ve always wanted to have, then, choose 3 that are the most accessible right now and break them down in small, actionable steps.
Incorporate, every day, in whatever capacity is available to you, that experience.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to go to Paris but that is not an option at the moment. Actionable steps to recreate that experience at home would be:
- make a dedicated Pinterest board and add all the places you’d like to visit
- have a Parisian breakfast one morning: from your local bakery, buy some croissants and indulge in some tea like this one that is dedicated to the city of lights
- put together some outfits that are inspired by the way French people style and dress themselves – they are known for it for a reason
- daydream, imagine and feel what it would be like to be there
You could also:
- have a savings account in which you deposit a sum each month, solely dedicated to traveling
This strategy applies to any experience we’d like to have, whether it’s romance, traveling, education or adventure.
6. How can I do things differently?
If I’ve been going in circles about an issue, then this question snaps me out of it.
There is certainty and safety in routines and even in our repetitive thought patterns, but if these fail to provide us with satisfying solutions to our problems, it is time to consider a different perspective and entertain a different point of view.
Challenging ourselves to view each issue from multiple points of view is the beginning of knowing ourselves and others, show greater empathy and compassion, and is a great tool that will always be at our disposal, allowing us to find creative solutions to problems we otherwise would not find.
7. What do i need?
This is such a simple question but one of the most important ones we could ever ask ourselves.
Practicing checking in with ourselves, especially when we feel overwhelmed, anxious or have depressive thoughts, is incredibly empowering, because:
- it allows us to stop and catch our breath for a second and ask “what do I need right now?” – some time off, to rest, to drink some water, to take a walk, take some time to consider, ask for help?
- to recognize and acknowledge our internal states
- to communicate our needs, to us and others
- to avoid the festering and bursting of ignored, unmet needs and thus, have deeper and more harmonious relationships
- to stay tuned to our needs and wants, anticipating and pro-actively address them
This is one of the most life changing skills to have since it can instantly improve all our relationships, the most important one being with ourselves.
From our day to day states, we can go one step further and ask ourselves: what do I need long term? what do I need from a relationship? from my friends? from my job? my career? by asking this question we can also consider our needs from a long term perspective.
Thank you so much for being here!
If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it helpful, I would appreciate it so much if you could share it with others and of course, please subscribe if you haven’t already.