Positive affirmations often become platitudes with diminishing returns over time. While plenty of research explores the benefits of affirmations and mantras, how can we transition positive statements into thought-provoking action? Here’s a list of questions that I ask each day and why you should too.

1. What Person Do I Want to Be?

Appearing as one of those interview deer-in-the-headlights moments, this question is a crucial starting point.  How do you want to show up in the world? Are you living a principle based life with hunger to challenge yourself? Are you determined to act and create change?

Bad things do happen. All the time. The severity of things is determined by our mindset. Whenever I feel myself diverting off course, I re-ask this question. Someone’s passive aggressive or gets angry towards me?  Dealing with unprofessional companies? When I feel overwhelmed and hurt? I come back to this.

2. What Type of Relationships Do I Want to Build and Nurture?

The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships – Harvey Mackay.

Underpinning professional and personal success is our relationships. Accomplishments, fame and “stuff” don’t amount to much unless we have close people in our lives to share them with.  When the dust settles, our legacy is about how we made others feel, not reducing the Q4 2017 expenses by 5%.

Fact is, people are important to me,  thus I find this question always keeps me grounded with what really matters.

3. What Value Do I Want to Create?

As Peak Performance author Brad Stulberg said, “purpose is the number one performance enhancer“. Keeping your why and end game in mind, desire creates motivation to go out and achieve. When there is reason, the want makes paralysis easier to overcome as well as overthinking, fear or doubt.  A simple way to determine what value you want is to use, “…that…so…”.

“I want to create a education blog that allows people to be equipped with the tools, knowledge and confidence so they can be empowered to have fulfilling lives of contribution and purpose”.

Reflective Questions

The questions below can be both be kick-starter or day end reflections. Sometimes I choose to bounce between either time of day.

4. If Today Was My Last Day on Earth What Have I Accomplished? What Would Have Really Mattered?

What I refer to as the ‘Steve Jobs Test‘, do you like what you’re doing? If that answer is no too often something has to change.  This question provides good perspective on execution of value delivered from Question 3. Reward mechanisms within our brains are wired to seek pleasure from success, but more importantly , celebrating success is vital in motivation and managing performance.

Secondly, contemplating something’s relevancy in the bigger picture allows for prioritisation and not sweating the small stuff. Adversity drives essentialism, so how can you drive that thinking daily?

5. What’s One Good Deed I Have Done for Someone Else?

Besides the strange psychological concept of liking someone more once we do a favour for them (the Benjamin Franklin Effect), acts of service are proven to reduce stress, increase reward pathways and even increase happiness. Furthermore, tying into Questions 3 and 4, good deeds whether big or small contribute to our overall confidence. Mindful activity from assisting others also helps alleviate excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.

6. What Am I Grateful For?

mindfulnessGratitude is a major component of happiness. It is also attributed to other benefits including relationship and physical health, self-esteem and well-being.  For me, recalling things I’m grateful each day provides perspective of how fortunate I am. It also provides a point of comparison for both positive and not-so-positive (it’s a mindset thing) events that occur. Gratitude drives progress but also allows for appreciation. When something goes bad, remembering a positive experience disempowers the intensity of negativity – the gap between stimuli and response is where gratitude lies.

7. What Did I Learn?

Founder of Collegiate EmPowerment, Tony J. D’Angelo states “Develop a passion for learning, if you do, you will never cease to grow”.  Continual growth and education is part of sharpening the saw; enhancing your greatest asset; you.  Techniques include previously mentioned DiSSS CaFE and some of my sources include: books, audiobooks, podcasts, documentaries, other blogs (!), mentors and the shoulders of many giants .

Seeking to improve each day means (1) I have been able to create value and (2) I am equipped to create even more effective or efficient value tomorrow. Learning can be anything contributing to private or public victories; such realising short term memory only lasts 1 minute to being a growth hacking crusader – it doesn’t matter.

8. What Can I do Better?

Part of a regular Start-Stop-Do More-Do Less review, this question is a critical analysis of behaviour. While the appeal of reviewing what you’re doing poorly may not be high, only what be managed can be measured. Building incremental changes daily can lead to transformational change in the long run. As Jeff Bezos said, “…be stubborn on the vision, but flexible on the details”.  Doing better is focus on continual improvement of the details.

Why You Should Rotate through these Questions

The psychological concept of desensitisation states that we receive “diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative, aversive or positive stimulus after repeated exposure to it”.  Thus it is important to frequently change up the stimulus we receive instead of our mind’s tendency to assume, allowing our senses to reinterpret the messages with a fresh lens.

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