At the end of every year I love to reflect on life for a while. Ironically this is also the time I hit my lowest lows. I am too harsh on myself. I think I achieved too little. That I could have done way more. And then beat myself up about it.
But after a while I calm myself again. It’s all good. Everything is fine. I have to remind myself that I do make progress.
By asking better questions.
Start with these four.
1) What outcomes surprised you this year?
This is true in business as well as in any other area of your life. You come up with some predictions about the future and what you are about to achieve and do. And then you face the facts when the end of the year comes closer.
- Did you lose the weight and finally got in shape?
- Did you really quit smoking?
- Did you learn something new?
- Did you eat healthier and drink less?
- Did you spend less and saved more money?
It’s a very simple process actually.
You either did it or you didn’t.
Since three years I am telling myself to learn Spanish. Every year learning a new language makes it onto my New Year’s Resolutions list. And every new year I break my resolution.
I guess everybody can relate to that. We always want to travel more and spend more time with friends and family. We want to be less stressed. Work less. And enjoy life more.
But then this exact life gets in the way. And we fall back to our default behaviour. And sooner or later break our resolution.
If those things you set out to do didn’t happen because you failed miserably it’s worth understanding why, so you can refine your resolutions for next year.
And if you know you will never follow through anyways, it’s better to NOT even try to convince yourself otherwise. This will hurt your willpower drastically and soon you are a whiny little wimp. Here is what you do instead.
So ask yourself what outcomes surprised you (both positively and negatively) and then figure out WHY this happened.
2) What are your unique circumstances — and how can you take advantage of them?
It’s very easy to tell yourself that you CANNOT do this or that because of this and that. We all love to come up with excuses. It’s just easier to rationalise this way. It puts the blame on somebody else. On our circumstances. Or on some external factors we cannot control.
(Which — on the other hand — puts YOU out of control. And you lose your ability to make a change.)
But in order to turn your life around this year you have to put your focus on your unique circumstances. Things that you have going on in your life that nobody else has. Stuff that gives you a strategic advantage over everybody else.
I know this sounds weird at first.
And definitely feels like bullshit when are just going through a lot of pain in your life. When everything is turned upside down and all hell is breaking loose. When you are struggling to wake up each morning. I know how that feels like.
Still, you have to get your mind going on this one.
Ask open-ended questions. Like this one. And your mind has to come up with answers. It always obeys.
What unique circumstances do you find yourself currently in? And how can you take advantage of them?
- You are all alone and have no friends? Great. At least now you don’t have to give a crap about what anybody thinks of you. You are free to do whatever you want! No pressure to impress anyone.
- Your girlfriend left you and you are all sad and want her back? Great. Use these strong emotions to push yourself to become a better version of yourself. And soon SHE will want you back.
- Your business failed horribly and you feel like a complete loser? Great. Now you can start anew and know WAY MORE than everybody else around you. Use this knowledge to make your next business a huge success.
Remember that whenever you think all hell is breaking loose, you might as well be just one tiny millimetre of the right track.
And when resources are scarce. You have to be resourceful.
3) What behaviour that has been successful in the past now needs to be abandoned?
I am big fan of removing over adding. My life is too cluttered already anyways. I try to handle multiple projects at once. Too much is going on all the time.
You’ll get your “peace of mind” by removing stuff. And finding the tiny things that make a huge impact. Dropping the ones that waste your energy.
Adding more and more things you don’t have strong feelings about will give you exactly that. More and more things you don’t really care about. And life will feel even more empty.
Still, to remove the stuff which is painful to you is easy. It’s obvious that harmful things are not helping you. And getting rid of them is always an improvement.
But sometimes we also have to get rid of stuff that was helpful for us for quite some time.
In order to grow.
And reach the “next level”.
What are some habits you have to get rid of in order to make room for something even better?
4) What’s been giving you disproportionate pleasure or grief?
Of course a wedding, a promotion or the birth of a child will be exciting. Of course a breakup, illness or professional setback will be distressing.
But what’s happening in your life that provokes an outsized response, either positive or negative?
Oftentimes there are very TINY things that need to be fixed, removed or replaced in order to get a HUGE pleasure out of it. Some things in life give you disproportionate pleasure or grief.
And if you fix these.
You’ll get the best results with the least amount of effort.
According to some estimates, nearly 50 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions. Yet, success isn’t easy — only 46 percent report keeping up their pledges for at least six months. To increase your chances, however, it’s important to start asking the right questions.
Just because we headed into a new year, it doesn’t mean that the reasons why past resolutions failed are now automatically fixed.
Instead, look to your 2015 — what worked particularly well or badly, what surprised you and what annoyed or delighted you — in order to create a brighter 2016.
Start with these four questions.