Last week I spoke with a client who truly wants to change the quality of her life and who for some time was going in circles, asking herself the same questions again and again, trying to find a solution by working harder and harder. Nothing she did really made a difference, and at that point she had lost all motivation.
Hers is a common story. Everywhere I see women with high standards and high values, working tirelessly, most often taking care of everything and everyone around them before they take care of themselves, and exhausting themselves asking:
“Why am I having this problem?”
“Why is everyone else succeeding in… (losing weight, getting a promotion, finding a partner, making her marriage work, getting organised)?
“Why am I not good (read: slim, rich, successful, smart, popular) enough?
How can you possibly _not_ be trapped in a hamster’s wheel with those kind of questions? It all starts with the questions you ask yourself.
They determine your answers and your actions. Hamster’s wheel questions can only lead to hamster’s wheel answers and end in hamster’s wheel actions.
During a coaching conversation, my clients are often surprised by my questions, and that’s a great sign. They start thinking into new directions, find new connections, ideas and solutions.
Here are nine questions you probably have not asked yourself enough that can help you kindle the fire again:
1.) What can I let go of?
When we have lost our mojo, it is never because we simplified too much! There is always a burden in form of tasks, people, stuff or things you believe you are not good with and need to get better. Rather than trying harder and harder again and again, ask yourself: what can I let simply go of? Is it the need for praise, the volunteering in three different clubs, the “friend” who has long ceased to be one, the shabby sofa no one really likes, or the belief that you can’t relax and live life before you get that promotion or buy a house or find a man or get a PhD?
First things that come to mind are usually the right ones, even if they are scary!
2.) Where can I step on the balcony?
Someone said something that upsets you. You feel hurt. Once the emotions are triggered, the wheel of shame and blame starts spinning. And before you know it, a full blown drama of Shakespearean proportions is going on, either with the other person involved, or inside yourself, when you feel misunderstood, humiliated and resentful.
Instead of participating, imagine yourself standing on a balcony and watching the drama, the fight and the sword-crossing in the court from above. The balcony is a place in your mind from where you put a certain distance between the drama and yourself.
The balcony brings back perspective.
A lot of the things that trigger our emotions and empty our reserves are not even worth being remembered in a week. So choose your battles wisely and step on the balcony for the rest of the time!
3.) How do I want to feel?
Maya Angelou says: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How do you make yourself feel? How do you decide what to feel? Whatever you achieve or possess, it’s the quality of how you are feeling that determines the quality of your life. You want to feel elegant? Then _decide_ to feel elegant, become a collector of elegant moments, wear that scarf, lipstick or jewelry you’re always saving for a special occasion and watch elegance becoming your new normal.
4.) What does my body want?
Touting “Mind over matter”, ignoring the only body that you have is not very bright.
Your body will send you very clear messages if you are ready to listen to her. What does she long for? Warmth and sunshine or cool, crisp air? What does she need? More sleep? If she could talk, would she ask to feel lighter and move more? How much water do you give her? Is your skin nourished? Is your body touched enough?
5.) What am I waiting for?
You don’t have shut down your laptop with a bang and to leap into hectic action right away! But take a moment to ask yourself: what am I waiting for? Maybe you are waiting for something or someone else to change. The thing is, and this bears repeating: you can only change yourself, which, incidentally, this is the only chance you have to change those around you.
But waiting for others to do the first step will keep you waiting for a l-o-o-ng time. Better be the one who takes the first step and thus gets to decide the direction!
6.) What can I upgrade?
It might seem superficial, but when you are surrounded by frumpiness, you will be stuck in a frumpy state of mind.
If you keep those sagging old bras and greyish knickers, your mind and your body will have a hard time to understand that you want to celebrate your femininity and lose weight. If you never repair or even clean your home, no one including yourself will believe that you deserve an elegant life. If you spend your time with people who bore you to death, well, guess what you’ll become sooner or later?
7.) What needs to be finished?
You might have forgotten all the small or not so small things lurking in your drawers, your basement or your mind, but unfinished business is an energy leak. Imagine you leave a tap in your home dripping. It might not be much, a drop every now and then, but place a bucket there and come back after a couple of hours and you’ll be amazed! This what unfinished business does to your vitality and energy. It’s very depleting.
It may be that online course you never finished, the half-knitted scarf, the letter that needs to be written, the debt that needs to be settled, the conversation you need to have with someone, the basement which is overflowing, the report you have to write or the lawn mower which needs repairing.
Let those things go, whenever you can. Don’t believe because you started making an Eiffel tower out champagne corks or wrote the first 20 pages of an epic novel three years ago that you are now morally obliged to finish it. You had your experience with it. Throw it out and concentrate on the things you really have to or want to finish.
8.) What’s the next (baby) step?
It’s all very well to have a big picture, a big vision, a big dream. But the only thing that’ll get you out of the house will be the first step. When this first step seems undoable, break it into baby steps.
Every enterprise, as huge, as long, as complex and complicated it may seem, can be broken down into small and even smaller steps.
Don’t allow yourself any iffing or butting. Take the first baby step. Rinse and repeat. And again.
And finally, the question that encompasses them all:
9.) What do I want?
Often we believe that we are stuck or unhappy because we can’t have what we want or be who we want. But most likely it is because we don’t know what we want. And this,
, is not that easy. Knowing what we really and truly want, digging deep without overthinking, envisioning the future rather than daydreaming.
Incidentally, this is by far the most common topic in a coaching conversation.
Oh, want to know what my client said at the end of our conversation? “I hadn’t realised at all how many things I can actually do! I can’t wait to start”. Mission accomplie.)
Rekindle that fire,