The main weapon in any coach’s arsenal is the simple question. If you’ve ever worked with me or any other coach, you’ll know that we love to ask questions. The beautiful thing about a good question is that it gets you thinking about a situation differently. Even better, the answers that you come up with are completely your own. Think about the difference between somebody preaching to you about how awesome something is versus coming to the realization on your own. An ineffective coach will talk on and on about his theories and ideas. He’ll preach to you about all of these amazing things you should be doing, you’ll probably sit there and nod, and then wonder why you just paid this yahoo to talk at you for an hour. On the other hand, a good coach will hit you with a question you didn’t see coming and as you struggle through an answer your thoughts will coalesce and become clearer. Suddenly, you’re at a new level of understanding or are hit by an insight you haven’t had before. And the best part is that you came to it on your own.
Luckily, questions are not the intellectual property of coaches alone. You can, and should, ask yourself questions all the time. In fact, I have a list of questions that I like to ask myself every 6-12 months, every month, every week, and one super special one that I ask myself as much as possible.
The questions that you ask yourself once, or at most twice, a year are obviously fairly grand in design. They try to get at the underlying issues that drive your actions and thought. These answers probably don’t change very often either because at this level, you’re going to be questioning your values and assumptions. Ask yourself these questions every 6 months to a year, write down your answers, save those answers, and revisit them again in another 6-12 months.
What are my 3-4 core values?
How do I know these are my core values?
What have I done in the past 6-12 months that proves these are my values?
What can I do in the next 6-12 months that will make these values a larger part of my life?
At the monthly level you’re trying to make sure you're staying on target with how you're spending your time. Every month I like to make sure my major projects are moving forward and that I have ongoing projects within each of my major 3-4 values. Stepping back every month and making sure you aren’t slacking off in one value or area of responsibility is a great way to let yourself focus on the day-to-day actions of living.
How have I used my time this month?
Am I addressing all my areas of responsibility (family, work, personal development, leisure, etc.)?
Do I have an ongoing project in each of my 3-4 major values?
Every week during my Weekly Review (GTD secret handshake) I ask myself a series of questions to make sure I’m staying on task. At this lower altitude of engagement the questions are more closely related to the actual work I’m doing on a daily basis. I’m free to dig into these details because I know I’ll be revisiting some larger questions that will keep me pointed in the right direction every month and even larger questions at the 6-12 month mark.
What did I accomplish this week?
What do I need to accomplish next week?
Do I have a very clear and actionable next step on all my projects?
What is on my mind and how can I get it out of there?
THE ALL-THE-TIME QUESTION
Lastly, there’s one question that I try to ask myself whenever I remember to. It’s really the core of my life philosophy and what keeps me grounded in the beauty of life.
What am I doing right now?
That’s mindfulness at it’s core. When I ask myself that question and I either a.) don’t have a good answer or b.) realize I’m doing multiple things at once, I try to step back, regather my mind, and focus on the present.
The last thing I want you to do before you stop reading is open your calendar and put a little reminder in there for the end of this week, the end of this month, and 6-12 months from now to revisit these questions. I guarantee if you make this a regular part of your life and reflective process you’ll gain more than you think.
Questions are power.