Nothing stands still. Things either get better or they get worse. You are either getting better or worse. It’s a universal principle starting with the universe itself: That which doesn’t expand, contracts. You are either going forward or backward.
Stephen Covey referred to this kind of thinking as sharpening the saw. Just coasting along creates backward momentum and we end up using more effort to accomplish less.
How can you develop a life that will give you a great return on investment? What are you doing to invest in yourself?
Related: 13 Ways to Improve Your Life
Here are four questions to position you for great returns. Good questions lead to information. Great questions lead to transformation.
1. Who are you and what do you want?
“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” —William Shedd
We all experience imagination gridlock. That’s the place of stuckness that keeps us from going after our most meaningful aspirations. It’s easy to simply drift in safety mode, living out the scripts we’ve picked up along the way. This question helps you start with the end in mind. What do you want? What are your strengths? What are your passions? How are these two integrated into what you are doing? Are they reflected in your schedule?
2. Where are you and why are you there?
“We can forgive a child for being afraid of the dark. The real tragedy is when grown adults are afraid of the light.” —Plato
If you try to download driving directions for a trip, the guiding system won’t begin until you enter a starting point. As you create a life map, you’ll better understand how you arrived at your current place. You can build on the good choices and clearly see why some weren’t as productive—identifying faulty thought systems and behaviors. First discover the facts, then face them. We can’t manage what we don’t know.
Where are you in relation to where you would like to be? The creative tension between your vision and your current reality will start to pull you in the right direction. When you know where you are, you discover it’s a lot easier to get where you want to go.
3. What will you do and how will you do it?
“We are repeatedly what we do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” —Aristotle
Purpose and passion are essential for creating your best possible life. Yet purpose and passion without a plan are fantasy. When our dreams collide with reality, reality wins. A dream becomes more than an illusion when goals are set and supporting habits are formed. There is a chasm between knowing where you are and where you want to be. Your plan is the bridge that links the two.
What would you like to do that you aren’t doing right now? What’s hindering your progress? What steps today will help you get to where you want to be tomorrow? Are your daily actions adding up?
4. Who are your allies and how can they help?
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the one who falls down and has no one to help him up.” —King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Our journey sometimes appears to be a solitary one, but that’s not the case. We can leverage the strengths, insights and wisdom of those around us. Our tendency is to beat ourselves up for struggling or not having all the answers. Our natural reaction during tough times is to pull back and isolate ourselves.
But that’s when we need our mutual supporters the most. If you were struggling in the ocean and in danger of drowning, would you call out to a lifeguard for help or start berating yourself for all the swimming classes you didn’t take? It’s not only nice but also essential to have mutual supporters who are insightful, useful and helpful.
Greatness begins with a profound understanding of yourself. It’s referred to as positive self-regard. Self-understanding allows you to manage your strengths and not get sidetracked by your weaknesses.
These four questions never grow old. They just grow deeper. They keep you on track for the best of your life. They help turn information into transformation.
How are you investing in yourself? What are you doing today that will bring great returns tomorrow?
(This blog is based on the book Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life that Mick Ukleja co-authored.)
This post originally appeared on LeadershipTraQ.com.