Like Socrates said many years ago, the unexamined life is not worth living. We hardly give ourselves time to think reasonably and logically about our lives and how to live it. In order to unlock our full potential and achieve our greatest dreams, we need to take a step back and examine the kind of life we are living and ask good life questions that make you think.
Living a conscious life
“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”
The instinct is to look for answers, but the truth is that it is the questions that teach us most. It can also be that the rhetorical questions — the ones that don’t even seem to have answers — that push and push the hardest. Who do you think you are? What does all this mean? Why? Why? Why?
But it took me a while to even understand what questions I should ask of myself. Some of those doubts were always there in the background, hovering, emphasizing that I didn’t understand life. I had a vague feeling that I was dismaying over things that didn’t matter while ignoring the universal realities that would pull me out of my little problem bubbles. But I wasn’t sure. And I never took out time to pin those deep questions about life, and, hence, could never answer them.
Whether you want to be happier or become a better leader, a better team player, a better human being, asking the right questions can help you move on a more conscious path and enable better choices. When your own awareness goes up, you are not just aware of your own self but start becoming more aware about others as well. You also learn how you impact others. And this is just so important for leaders to understand. Many leaders think this self-awareness impacts ONLY them.. that is a myth! It a VUCA world, leaders really need to learn to ask better questions.
Do not ask ‘why’- ask ‘how’ and find the ‘what’
I have always been curious and the process of questioning deepened over time when I started working, became a mother, experienced failure, faced relationship challenges and then when I went through the loss of my father. This started taking a large part of my mind space, creating a lot of clutter with no answers, or I found solace in externalising my problems…both situations leading to loss of optimism, productivity and happiness levels.
In one of such lock jam situations of team work, I met my coach Nasreen Khan. I went to her in a state of confusion, with multiple questions of ‘why this’, ‘why that’ and came back empowered, to make better choices by changing the questions I was asking myself. She helped me unlock the magic of self-awareness that helped me take charge of my life and also inspires me to be a better version of myself each day. The simple shift was asking solution focussed question of ‘how’ rather than the victim questions of ‘why’.
The marvellous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. These questions always have something to do with how you might be more generous, more courageous, more present, more dedicated, more optimistic and they also have something to do with timing: when you might step through the doorway into something bigger, better—both beyond yourselves and yet more of yourselves at the same time.
As Franz Kafka once said, “Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate… but with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins.”
My effort continues……
And in continuation of this effort, I had the privilege of being the host for The Outstanding Speakers’ Bureau conversation with Nasreen Khan, Coach, Facilitator – Behavioral Training, NLP Trainer. My every interaction with Nasreen has always been enriching and this #TOSBConversation was no different.
Nasreen’s philosophical knowledge and practical experience in conversation is truly insightful. The real life anecdotes shared by her, as a coach and a coachee are real, simple to understand and embrace to help you take charge of your life.
Sharing some of Nasreen’s key takeaways and a few resources shared by her to learn more about the ‘art of happiness and asking the right questions’.
- Take time to ask yourself one question every day.This could be at the start of your day – e.g. what’s the most important thing I want to accomplish today or what mood do I choose to be in today; or at the end your day – e.g. what did I do really well today or what did I enjoy most today or what is one learning I had today. You will discover that with these questions, your self-awareness will slowly build up. For more ideas, check our these articles on 5 essential questions to pursue the life you want and 15 life-changing questions to ask yourself.
- “Measure” your happinesswith University of Pennsylvania’s questionnaires on Authentic Happiness which will help you explore various ways to know yourself better. Pick one or two tests that interest you, see your current score, ask yourself “what are some things I can do to make the score better” and after three months, check your progress. Have fun with it.
- Read Martin Seligman’s book Learned Optimismto explore more in-depth research. He’s known as the father of Positive Psychology.
- Study the science of well-beingand find out what really makes us happy versus what we think makes us happy with this free course by Yale University
- Keep a gratitude journalby noting down things or people you are grateful for each day. Research has proven again and again, that this one act can help increase your happiness levels like no other. Please start right away!
- If you want toknow more about the power of asking questions – not only to self but to others as well – read this insightful article on HBR.
Allow your questions to challenge you and think.
The secret ingredients to true happiness really is, decisive optimism and personal responsibility of taking charge of one’s life to be a happy person and an effective leader. And this starts with the asking ‘better ’question.
Feeling like you are not in charge of your own life is an unsettling feeling. Worse yet, like many individuals are you not even aware that they you are acting according to the scripts laid out for you by society, family and other outside pressures, without any true self direction. The right question at the right time can change the course of a life, can still a turbulent mind, or heal an angry heart. Every situation can generate its own questions, to be asked not just once but many times over the course of a lifetime, some even many times over the course of the day.
Begin today, begin now, ask yourself, “what are the 3 words that you would like to be used to describe yourself”? I am sure your answer will be in the question itself, of thing you need to start doing, stop doing or do more of, things that truly matter to you and align with your ‘authentic self’.
You may or may not know the answer to your questions, but I can say from experience, there is value in letting them challenge you. Some questions may be simpler than others, sure, but the answers rarely are — and the act of asking is the most important thing. If you let them do their work on you — and let them change you, you will find the meaning of life.
Must watch this TOSB conversation and as Nasreen said , “All you need to do now, is to take time to munch those peanuts and start asking some questions to yourself regularly. You will be surprised at how many answers you have, when you care enough to ask.”
Be Curious, Ask Better Questions, Stay Optimistic and Take Charge of Your life!
Credit: The Outstanding Speaker’ Bureau and Nasreen Khan