“We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.”
In my psychological research studies on perception, I have learned that a major part of conducting research is being able to ask the right questions in order to receive the right answers or a series of possible right answers. The same is true in every area of life. To make progress, you have to be willing to ask the right questions because asking the right questions will help you to keep discovering new ways of doing things and gain insight within your field.
In school, we are taught indirectly that giving the right answer to a question is admirable and maybe even makes us look smart. In reality, it is asking the right questions that separate the wise from the unwise and then sets us on a course to answering those questions in as many ways as is possible. Asking the right questions takes a little bit more work than merely having the right answers.
Here are 7 questions to ask yourself at the end of every day to help you reach your goals, allocate your time to things that matter, and get the most out of your work and play:
1. What kind of person have I been today?
Far above talent and ability, character and integrity matter the most. We are born with talent; we are not born with character. Character is developed over time as we make progress throughout life. It includes how you respond to success, react to failure, take responsibility, and learn from your experiences. It also includes how you handle opportunity, how you treat people, and what you do on a daily basis. Character is the foundation of the building of life. Without character, the building falls.
2. Did I reach my goals today?
There are long term goals and then there are short term goals. Long term goals are similar to three-year, five-year, and ten-year plans. They take time to come to fruition. However, each day you should take one or two steps in the direction of your goals. If you achieve enough short term goals over a period of time, you will eventually achieve your long term goals. The journey to reaching your long term goals is filled with patience and a lot of small steps.
3. Have I served someone today?
Each day is an opportunity to take one step toward our goals but it is also a chance to use our talent, resources, money and time to help someone else along in life. Deep on the inside, we are made to do much more than live for ourselves. The world is never short on opportunities to serve, give, volunteer, or otherwise express love and care to others. This doesn’t always mean volunteering at a food bank or soup kitchen. It could also mean mentoring a young child or giving advice to new grads.
4. What lessons have I learned today?
We all make mistakes and experience failure at one point or another in our lives. We cannot avoid some missteps, but we can choose how we will respond to them when they happen. You can succumb to failure and allow thoughts of “I’m not good enough” or “I am not as adequate as the next person” to rob you of your strength to keep going. Or you can realize this moment is an incredible opportunity to learn, grow, and do it better next time.
5. Did I make the right choices today?
We all have the power to make the choices we want to make to create the days we want to have and the life we want to live. It is inevitable that at times, we will make the wrong choices, but a series of right choices made over a long period of time will eventually result in a good life which equals fulfillment, meaning, and value.
6. What am I grateful for today?
At the end of the day, whether it was good or bad, there is always something for which to give thanks. Being grateful keeps your feet on the ground and your head in the game of life. It shifts your thinking from not enough to more than enough, from problems to solutions, from what’s not important to what really matters. At the end of the day, you can rest knowing you gave it your best shot and that is a reason to give thanks.
7. Did I have fun?
I know it sounds odd that adults would seriously think about fun and play, but we should. Study after study shows that while we take work seriously even to a fault of burnout and sleep deprivation, we don’t see having fun as equally as important or worthy of our time. While we work to make money so we can live and take care of our families, a healthy balance is struck when we also aim to enjoy our work. Work is not play, but play can be work. And if you take time to watch movies, read books, play music, go to concerts, go on dates, do word puzzles, or hang out with friends, you will eventually strike that beautiful balance.
“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.”
— Antony Jay