21 October 2016

72 – Change the Question

This essay is about a question.

In particular, it’s about how changing that question can give us a greater sense of control in our lives.

This essay is sponsored in part by a fuck-up. So let’s begin with a word from our sponsor.

The fuck-up occurred early on a Wednesday morning. And the fucking-up was done by me while working on this essay. Long story short: I lost the editing changes I’d made that morning while saving and copying files. And it was my own fault.

Good job, Bob.

I stared at the computer screen in furious disbelief for a few seconds. Thankfully I kept my furious disbelief to myself, and kept my laptop on the desk. I figured no one in the neighbourhood would appreciate getting woken up at 530am by the sound of cursing and screaming and a laptop being tossed out the window. I decided to pack my lunch and take the garbage out instead.

I thought about the lost work while making a smoothie. As I filled the cup I asked myself:

Now what do I have to do?

The thought of redoing the lost work pissed me off so much that I could’ve watched Donald Trump talk about international diplomacy just to avoid it.

But I paused and took a breath. And I told myself to change the question. And I asked myself something slightly different:

Now what am I going to do?

My attitude toward resuming work on this essay changed entirely. I became eager to get back at it. And thanks be to fuck for that. I’ve got no interest in listening to Donald Trump talk about domestic affairs anyways.

Stop doing that.

Pausing to reflect in that moment made me realize that I’d fucked-up at a perfect time. My fuck-up pushed me to put into practice the very thing I was writing about. It compelled me to change the question.

It also gave me a useful anecdote. Best kind, says I. This kind of essay works better with an anecdote to illustrate the point anyways.

So now that we know I possess questionable copy and paste skills, let’s take a closer look at the question in question.

We’re asked the same question many times a day. Though most of the time it’s not being asked by someone else. The question is being asked by us. And that question is this:

What do I have to do?

It’s a question that matters anytime, anywhere, every single day. We ask ourselves this upon waking up in the morning, throughout our work day, and on our day’s off. The list can go on infinitely because that question applies in every facet of our lives.

It’s an important question to ask ourselves. It helps us drop anchor amidst that daily sea of actions, responsibilities, and distractions that we all navigate. It helps us to prioritize tasks and identify and implement the best course of action. That question gets us thinking tactically about getting things done.

But there are problems with that question.

Asking ‘What do I have to do?’ screams of coercion, resignation, and defeat.  It suggests that we’re confronted by circumstances beyond our control. It suggests we have no choice but to react to them. It implies that the tasks facing us are a battery of overwhelming obstacles.  That question leaves us feeling hopeless.

And nobody does well when they feel obliged to do something they have little chance of succeeding at.

Thankfully, that question can be improved with a simple little change.

Ask yourself this instead:

What am I going to do?

That question sounds very similar to the original question. It’s still geared toward plotting a tactical course of action through a daily sea of potential clusterfucks.

But there’s a world of difference between those two questions. And one is infinitely more powerful and empowering than the other.

Asking ‘What am I going to do?’ sings of intention, energy, and drive. It frames the pending tasks as opportunities to develop, improve, and accomplish. It suggests we retain the ability to choose how we respond to those circumstances. It gets us thinking and acting in the present moment. It propels us to take prompt, proactive, and deliberate measures.

And we always respond better when we’re doing things on our own terms.

Perspective matters. So do the words we choose to use. And together they have a direct impact on how we do what we do.

We all do lots of things every day. Some are menial tasks. Let’s face it, someone’s got to wash the dishes, take out the garbage, and clean the bathroom. Some tasks are deeper in scope. It takes time, patience, and persistence to get in shape or get out of debt, for example. But big or small, no task needs to feel like a shitty chore. They’ll only feel that way if we allow them to.

Your life isn’t a path you’re being forced to take. And your days aren’t a race against the clock to do things against your will.

When you think about the tasks before you, take a moment and breathe. Don’t ask What do I have to do?’ 

Ask ‘What am I going to do? instead. 

Two simple words change the question entirely. And when you ask yourself a better question you answer it with more energy, purpose, and heart.

Change the question. Change your perspective. Change your mindset.

Your day is an opportunity to accomplish. And your life is yours to make better.

Take it furthur, and make it your golden road to unlimited devotion.

Furthur: they’re not a typo.

1 comment:

  1. I ask myself these question's everyday and when I catch myself asking the hare's and do's it's usually a more stressful and less enjoyable da y. That is not a coincidence. The words we choose to think and speak, she a person the person we are and are to become. Thanks Bob.


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