Are you going through life on autopilot? Would you like to find more direction and satisfaction?
Author Warren Berger started his career as a journalist. That’s when he re-learned the importance of asking questions—an art that we usually lose after childhood. He says that asking questions about your own life can help you discover what makes you happy or what your life purpose is.
Keep reading for three questions you should ask yourself if you want to understand where you are and where you’re headed.
#1: Why Am I Doing This?
Consider activities that take up a lot of your time like work, school, or a particular hobby. Over time, those activities simply become habits. So, the question you should ask yourself periodically is “Why am I doing this?” Answering that question honestly helps you learn whether you truly find that activity rewarding—or if you’re doing it for a less fulfilling reason, such as habit or because it’s expected of you.
(Shortform note: When following Berger’s advice here, you might find that you don’t know why you’re doing something. Some studies have shown that practicing mindfulness—paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without trying to control them—can help you to understand your personality and motivations. Meditation is a common way to practice mindfulness; just five minutes of mindfulness meditation each day can help you to connect with your inner thoughts and cultivate better self-understanding.)
#2: What If I Changed One Thing?
Another powerful question you should ask yourself is “What if I changed just one thing about my life?” Such questions are especially useful for breaking out of old routines and habits, as well as finding new ways to seek fulfillment.
For example, what if you cooked just one healthy meal each week? What if you read a book before bed, instead of scrolling through social media? What if you volunteered for a cause you believe in?
|How Small Changes Add Up
It may not seem like making one change could make much of a difference to your sense of fulfillment and happiness. However, some experts argue that small adjustments create larger impacts than you might think.
In Atomic Habits, James Clear says that forming small, helpful habits can add up to big changes in your life. He explains that behaviors compound on themselves: Doing the same positive behavior over and over creates ever-increasing benefits. For example, saying one nice thing to your spouse won’t have a huge impact on your marriage; however, if you get into the habit of paying your spouse a compliment every day, you’ll greatly strengthen your relationship.
In The Power of Habit, productivity expert Charles Duhigg adds that changing one of your habits can trigger a chain reaction that encourages you to change other habits. For instance, improving your sleep habits will give you more energy, which could make you more motivated to exercise—and getting more exercise, in turn, will help you sleep better at night.
#3: What Am I Grateful For?
Finally, Berger says that, while asking the above questions can help you find added fulfillment in your life, there’s one question you should ask yourself that can help you be happy with the life you have right now: “What am I grateful for?”
In other words, the happiest people aren’t those who have the most “stuff” but those who appreciate what they have. Berger concludes that regularly asking yourself what you’re grateful for is an effective way to recognize and appreciate what you have.
Exercise: Ask Yourself Some Fundamental Questions
Here are some specific questions about your career and your personal life based on the concepts above that can provide you with useful insights.
- Why do you work at your current job? (For example, is it just for money? Does it give you a sense of fulfillment? Are you serving a cause you believe in?)
- What if you made one small change in your life? How would your life improve if you made that change? (For example, you might want to exercise more, pursue a hobby, or spend more time with your family. All of these things would boost your mood.)
- What are you grateful for right now, before changing anything? List three or four things that bring you joy, whether or not they seem “important.” (For instance, you may be grateful for your health, your loved ones, your favorite movie, or your first cup of coffee in the morning.)