zenhabits : breathe

Two Questions to Help You Gain Perspective

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Glen Allsopp of the PluginID blog.

What do near-fatal incidents, self reflection and death all have in common? They all, for me at least, help to put life into perspective. Each of these offers a different view point, for example a close encounter might help us to realise what really matters to us and what isn’t worth the stress. Similarly, self reflection can help us see where we may be wasting time or opportunities and how we can improve on that.

I don’t know if it is just me, but when somebody I’m close to passes away, I cease worrying about all my little problems and stop thinking that the world owes me a favour. Instead, I feel inspired to make the most of this opportunity, because it can disappear at any time.

It is as if the illusion and distorted view I have of reality starts to sink away and things start to become clear.

Over the last year, quite a few people have passed away and moved on to some other place. Yet, up until very recently I never realised quite what it was about death that inspired me to take action in life and stop taking the things that matter to me for granted. The effects of this inspiration never seemed to last very long, but I was always curious about what it was.

After sitting down and pondering over this for a while, the answer hit me. I came across a very simple, yet elegant understanding for what was happening: I was aligning myself with truth.

That is it, the catalyst of life that hit me when someone close passed away. I was simply seeing reality in its true form. The truth that:

There were more things that became clear to me, but those are arguably the most important. Once I had this realisation, I started to look at how I can apply this simple understanding of truth to propel me to take action in life. After all, simply telling ourselves to “make the most of this opportunity” rarely results in some continued, effective, output.

I decided to look at my current situation and I formed two questions that helped me to really put things into perspective. I believe that everyone can benefit from answering these, the key being that you need to apply the principle of truth in your responses. If you don’t, the only person you are fooling, is you.

Question 1: If someone had a video tape of your typical day, what would they see?

I’m not talking about some bad habits you might have or an argument with a family member, instead I’m referring to your productive actions. Would they see you working hard at in your day job? Would they see you wasting time on irrelevant activities? Would they see you taking action or being complacent because you don’t believe in yourself?

I don’t know what it is about this question, but when I asked it to myself, the answer wasn’t pretty. I realised that in my typical day I can let the smallest things get me down, I waste time checking email that doesn’t need to be read, just to feel busy and so on. I take for granted the roof over my head, the food on the table and the abundance of clothes I can put on every morning.

“How you live each day is, of course, how you live your life”

It is only through honest self-assessment through this question that you can realise where your shortcomings may lie. After that, it is down to you to take this realisation and use it to help you take action and change things for the better.

Question 2: Based on your current actions and behaviours, where would you expect to be in five years?

Note that this isn’t asking where you would like to be; this is taking into consideration your current efforts and looking at where you would expect to be. As with the previous question, answering this requires you being totally truthful.

Unlike my response to the first question, my answer to this was fairly positive. I took out a piece of paper and jotted down both the question and my response. My reply basically stated that I was heading in the right direction (I work for myself and try to help people through my blog) but I could be doing much more.

“You can’t escape the consequences of your actions.”

– Steve Pavlina

Because my business operates solely online, I would often waste time on sites like Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and even instant messaging clients. I decided to push these out of my life, and even set myself a 7-day self-discipline challenge where I would not use them at all.

If I kept up my current actions for the next five years then I might be maintaining a steady passive income and have helped thousands of people live up to their true potential. Yet, it would actually take the five years, whereas this is probably something I could do in the next one or two.

It is only through giving a truthful answer to this question that I can fix my flaws, rather than living in the illusion that I’m doing my best or everything is as good as it can be.

It may be the case that you’re happy with the answers you’ve written down or worked out, and if so, congratulations. Keep doing what you’re doing. On the other hand, I suspect a lot of people won’t be proud of the results after honestly giving this exercise some thought. If that’s you, then you’ve now taken the first and quite possibly the hardest step to rectify the situation and start creating the life you’re meant to live.

I truly hope that everyone who has taken the time to really ponder over these internal enquiries has benefited from gaining a new, honest perspective about their lives. Now it’s just up to change the things that you feel you should…

Glen Allsopp is a Personal Development blogger who writes at PluginID. If you want to help him help you, then why not grab a free subscription to his site, here.



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