5 daily questions that will improve your business and life

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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

How would you compare your life today to three years ago? Depending on how much self-reflection you engage in and how much effort you put into self-improvement that might be an easy or an incredibly difficult question to answer. All too often we assume that we keep getting better with age, as if we are scotch or wine. Last time I checked I’m not scotch, though there may be a traceable amount in my blood. This is chronological arrogance, the assumption that age equals wisdom.

A foolish person in their mid-twenties that keeps living only for the weekend may end up a laughable 80-year-old. But a teenager that is introspective and seeks wisdom may become a sage 55-year-old. There are a few simple truths that will make all the difference in your life three years from now. Change is inevitable, but improvement is not. Ready to improve?

Simple Truth #1

Small activities lead to massive gains, or setbacks.

That volunteer activity you performed lead to meeting your future business partner. Agreeing to run a 5K with your best friend ignited a passion for fitness. Receiving an encouraging note from someone during your breakfast set the tone for the best day you’ve had in months. Not all changes are positive. Misplacing your keys the night prior leads you to be late for your dream-client meeting. Reacting to a co-worker instead of first reflecting and then responding leads to a tenuous work environment for months.

 

Simple Truth #2

Your life is not static. You are either moving forward, or backward.

Unless you are actively monitoring and tracking your daily activities, searching for the things that improve your life and determining those that detract from your ideal scenario, you will be clueless about what direction your heading. A ship does not get from the Dover Straight to the Panama Canal by pointing the bow generally southwest and setting sail. The course is meticulously charted and constantly corrected. Your daily activities are not much different, without a charted line of travel you’re just drifting at sea.

 


“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

 


 

Old and new evidence conclude that your morning routine and your nighttime routine have a monstrous impact on your life overall. Establishing positive routines that set the tone for your day and that prep your subconscious mind for the night establish a consistent playback of your greatest hits, the soundtrack that will help you rock your world.

Your Morning Questions

1. What are three things I am grateful for today?

Why gratitude? Studies show that gratitude journals lead to increased sense of well-being, better sleep, willingness to accept change, and even helps lower the symptoms of physical pain. Need more reasons? A 2008 study using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) found that subjects experiencing gratitude exhibited a real-time influence over their hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that controls sleep, stress, eating, growth and more. It also releases dopamine, a hormone that plays major role in reward-motivated behavior and is active in creating new learning pathways.

2. What would make today a great day?

There is a portion of your brain called the RAS (reticular activation system) that essentially determines the lenses through which you view the world around you. Practically speaking, it is the region of the brain responsible for you suddenly seeing that same pair of shoes you just bought everywhere, or suddenly noticing how many other black VW Passats are on the road after you buy yours.

When you ask yourself what would make today great, you are priming your RAS to seek and identify those opportunities to make your day better.  You can literally teach your brain to see more opportunity or positive scenarios. Make sure you take care to write things you have control over.

3. What am I? Daily Affirmation

This is a simple statement that defines who you want be in present tense. Your consistent use of affirmations primes your brain to build this belief in your mind. Studies conducted using fMRI have yielded conclusive evidence that meditation actually increases neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to create structural changes. Affirmations are essentially a meditation on who you want to become.

 


“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”-Proverbs 18:21


 

 

Your Bedtime Questions

1. What three amazing things happened today?

When you write down your amazing three you are counting your blessings in reverse. Reflection primes the brain to focus on the positive and sets the subconscious tone for sleep. The practice of reflection on the positive has the ability to change your relationship with loved ones, your environment, circumstances, and yourself. Imagine if the first thing you did when returning home each evening, or having dinner with family, was to share one amazing thing that happened? This simple activity can set the tone for the evening, and have dramatic impact upon your relationships.

2. If you could start the day over, what one thing would you do differently?

The 1993 film Groundhog Day featured Bill Murray reliving February 2nd over and over again. After loathing his predicament he eventually sees the opportunity in it to acquire new skills and help others. In a more recent film, Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise relives a day of battle over and over with each new day giving him the opportunity to learn and adapt to stay alive and defeat the alien enemy. There are other movie examples of the universal desire to go back and do it over.

Even though you are working hard to prime your brain to seek the positive and act on opportunity, chances are that during the day old habits surface and your automatic responses kick in. These are the instances when you get off track. Revisiting them and writing down what you could have done differently teaches your brain how to act the next time the scenario arises.

 

Commit to doing this daily, for at least a period of three months. At the end of that three month period you will have a detailed record of not only what you’ve accomplished, but also how your attitude and outlook have been altered. Imagine where this could take you in three years time.

 

For more reading on the subject and in-depth studies about these concepts we recommend reading:

Carr, Alan. Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Human Strengths. Hove: Brunner-Routledge

Achor, Shawn. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. New York: Broadway

Chamine, Shirzad. Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential and How You Can Achieve Yours. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group

 

Like this post? Please share it with your friends and colleagues. How else have you taken steps to improve your life? Let us know if the comments.

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