The Question to Command Your Life
What’s your metaphor for life? Is life a roller coaster? A series of ups and downs or an adrenaline rush thrill ride? Is life a journey, a marathon, or a dance? Is it a battle, a symphony or a three-ring circus?
Would that metaphor change if I asked you on your graduation or wedding day versus the day you lost your job?
Our outlook is constantly adjusting. Like a swivel chair, we’re busily twirling around and our emotions shift depending on what we’re facing at the moment. Then we compare what we see to what we want.
Is happiness really about meeting our own (or other’s) expectations? It’s like trying to hit a bulls eye with a moving target. There has to be a better way to “dance” through life.
The answer we want is “yes”. The question we need to keep asking is………..
“Can something good come from this?”
(“This” can be a thought, feeling, choice, decision, or action)
And the follow-up question is:
“Is there something good that can come from that?” (same question taken a step further)
Here’s why I believe this question is so powerful:
1. It addresses negative thoughts.
If we are tearing ourself down, feeling guilty over something we can’t change, holding a grudge, or worrying over stuff that hasn’t happened yet– ask the question. Like a knife, the question cuts to the core of negative thoughts we hold onto because we think they’re justified. And many of them are. But they make us feel miserable.
If happiness is sustainable, we must learn the skill of releasing negative thoughts that do us harm or prolong misery. Is it more important to be right or to be happy? Is it more important to punish ourselves or others or focus on parts of us or them that we’re proud of?
2. It addresses negative behaviors.
Grabbing a cigarette, a second piece of pie, or sleeping in when we planned on working out? About to scream at our spouse or boss? Gossip to our friend about someone else?
If the answer is that having the cigarette is good for us because it calms our anxiety, then move on to the follow-up question. If the answer is still yes, then we’re not ready to quit smoking. If we still scream at our boss after asking the question, maybe we really want to be fired because we’re scared to quit.
3. It addresses fear.
If we’re afraid to make the follow-up call on the job we applied for, ask the question. Ask the same question if we do make the follow-up call.
If we worry about what could happen, ask ourself if anything good is coming from worrying? Isn’t it just making us fret right up until the future is the present and we know the outcome?
If we hide in the corner by ourself at a party because we’re uncomfortable mingling and we ask ourself the question, we might answer, “The good that will come out of this is that I won’t embarrass myself.” Then ask the follow-up. The real answer is revealed. We will leave with no new connections. The party was no fun and we feel unpopular and lonely.
4. It encourages perseverance.
If we’re not on the playing field we have no chance of winning. The “good” may be in the distant future. A “yes” answer reminds us of what we’re shooting for. Why we began in the first place.
If we begin a workout program or pursue a goal, ask this question to keep on track. What good will come if we throw in the towel?
5. It encourages forward motion.
Grief and trauma can lead to a life in quicksand. Instead of living with negative feelings of unfairness, loss and anger, we can learn to appreciate what we had. The pain turns to gratitude. If we live in pain, we’ll be sad. If we live in gratitude, we’ll be happy. Wallowing in pain and trauma, no matter how justifiable, weighs us down.
Feeling like we’re stuck keeps us stuck. This question is like shock treatment. Zapping our thoughts out of powerlessness. Movement, the willingness to try, releases potential for good to come.
6. It encourages the greater good.
Fighting back against injustice helps those that follow. Even if our actions don’t specifically benefit us, they may benefit others. There is a difference between complaining and objecting for a purpose. Helping others, as we know, also helps ourselves.
Sometimes we have to travel through the tunnel to reach the light. The question doesn’t have a timeline but a target.
Keep in mind:
Your answer has to align with your personal values.
If you cheat on a test and the answer to the question is “so I can get an A in the class”, that’s a values issue. What you define as “good” varies depending on your values in relation to the question. If you value honesty then the real answer is “no”.
The enemy of the question is sarcasm.
If you eat a dozen doughnuts and answer the question “eating those cheered me right up”, that’s sarcasm. We’ll use sarcasm to justify immediate gratification. Until we ask the follow-up question. “Is there something good that can come from that choice?”
Beware of sneaky rationalizations.
Justification: The habit of justifying negative thoughts and actions because a situation or person triggered them. Do you think you’re weak if you don’t respond appropriately? Ask the question. React and act only if something good can come from it.
Blame: Believing that it’s necessary to react punitively because he or she deserved it.
Judgement: “Well at least I’m not that bad so therefore the outcome is good in comparison.”
Duty: Is it your duty to worry? Does duty provoke dread? Do your duties (because something good results from completion), but don’t strip away joyful time by worrying and dreading those duties.
There are no guarantees of “good” results. Only a guarantee of intent.
A “yes” answer to the question keeps me focused on an upbeat, “thrill ride” approach to life. Even more important is that a “no” answer is my signal to adjust my thought or question my action.
The adjustment process takes practice. If we have 70,000 thoughts per day that affect our decisions and mood, I’d say we have plenty of space to train. Best we get started as soon as possible.