Nothing stands still. Things either get better or they get worse—you are 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 your investment? What are you doing to invest in yourself?
Good questions lead to information, but great questions lead to transformation. Here are four questions to position you for great returns:
1. Who are you and what do you want?
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?
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, starting from the beginning will allow you to better understand what shaped your present. You can build on the good choices and clearly see why some weren’t as productive by 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?
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 only 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?
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, which 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 post originally appeared on LeadershipTraQ.com in January 2017 and has been updated. Photo by @atercorv/Twenty20
Mick Ukleja, Ph.D., is the founder and president of LeadershipTraQ. He empowers leaders to optimize their talent and equips them to excel in their professional and personal life. Mick is an author, speaker and generational strategist. He writes and speaks on engaging millennials at work. He is the co-author of Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce, 2nd Edition, which is used in corporate training and business schools. He co-founded the Ukleja Center for Ethical Leadership at California State University, Long Beach, which promotes ethics across the curriculum. Mick is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Concordia University. His book Who Are You? What Do You Want? has been praised by legendary coach John Wooden: “I have always taught that success can be achieved by each one of us. These principles provide an excellent life-planning guide for bringing out your best.” Mick has been featured on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business Network, NBC and in numerous publications. Keep up with Mick at Leadershiptraq.com.