Indecision is my Achilles’ Heel. There has not been a thing in my life of which I haven’t questioned a thousand times over. No decision has come without doubt, no act without hesitation. To put it in other terms: I question everything, and I know this isn’t abnormal per say. Introspective questioning is important, but the problem is that it often errs on the side of our faults. What we did wrong, how this person could hate us, and on and on.
I find that, ironically, the antidote to getting your mindset out of repetitive, unnecessary negativity is also a series of questions, of which I’ve learned to ask myself when I really need to shift the way I’m seeing or feeling about something. The following are ones to turn to when you need to look at things more objectively, gain a little perspective, or ease your mind out of a particular stressor that it created for itself.
1. Is this issue going to matter in a year from now?
Can you remember what your biggest problem was a year ago from today? Is it still an issue? (Most likely, you can’t, or it’s not.)
2. What aspects of your current life would you be grateful for if you had them five years ago?
All of a sudden, the most simple things — a relationship, a friend, an apartment, a job — seem like the greatest, most intense blessings. If you imagine the ‘you’ you were five years ago receiving them, they seem out of your league.
3. Do you really care about this situation, or do you just care about how it makes you look?
Often (or really, most times) we aren’t angry with someone else or a situation at hand, we’re caught on our own ego. We are afraid to lose a job out of shame. We’re anxious about a quarrel with a friend because of how other people may view it from the outside, we’re upset about a breakup because other people probably find us pathetic, etc. The truth is that most times, we are far less upset about a given situation than we think we are, but we get caught up on what other people will think of it and end up making it worse for ourselves.
4. What are five basic things for your survival that you never have to think about being provided?
When’s the last time you thought about where your next meal was coming from? Do you have a place to sleep? Can you pay your rent, your electric bill? Do you have rent, or an electric bill? Did you wake up and get a coffee this morning without worrying it was going to put you out of a meal?
5. What would your life be like if you didn’t have those things?
How different would things be — how different would you be — if your primary concern was feeding yourself each day? Finding a place to sleep? If clothes legitimately had to serve to keep you warm and covered, not serve as a fashion statement?
6. What’s a huge life crisis you once had that you no longer do?
There is nothing that puts everything in perspective as quickly or as accurately as evaluating what your old-self used to be concerned with does. Read old journals. Think about the things you were once most upset over, and remember how they unfolded and inevitably became irrelevant — as everything almost always does.
7. What are a few compliments that you’ve received lately?
It’s the classic “forget about the one hundred nice things said and lose your mind over the one negative thing you heard in passing” syndrome. We often don’t dwell on the kind words of others because we feel we don’t deserve them. How often are we so quick to brush off nice words and completely let them go in lieu of the one thing that we need to fix, and so we let it drive us to total insanity?
8. What do you have in this moment that you’ll never have again?
What will you look back on in five years, once your life has changed, and miss? Can you appreciate that in this moment, you may not have everything you want, but you do have many things that you won’t have forever, and learn to appreciate them while you do?
9. If you could say one thing to yourself five years ago, what would it be?
Most likely, it’s: “stop worrying and enjoy your life more.” “Such-and-such situation doesn’t matter.” Whatever it is: it’s a truth you know. So apply it to now.
10. Do you really dislike a certain person, or do you dislike what you identify within yourself that they reflect back to you?
I hate to break this to those of you who don’t already know, but all hatred is self-hatred. The real question here is what do you have to confront and reconcile within yourself rather than continuing to project your issues onto an external situation?
11. Practicality aside, what would make you happier than anything else?
Often it’s not about the exact manifestation, but the essence of it… if sitting on the beach makes you happy, it’s not that you should pick up and live there, but maybe plan a trip. What’s important is allowing yourself to think outside of logistics and then learning to apply what you find in a realistic way.
12. What do you do when nobody’s looking? Who are you when you’re not trying to be something to someone else?
Read? Sing? Daydream? Pray? If so — about what? What do you think about when you’re not thinking about what other people will think of you or your actions?
13. What of the past year do you actually remember?
More likely than not it’s just a select, isolated moment or two, which serves to show you that you won’t remember the minute-to-minute moments of your life, rather just a few isolated instances that stand out (so you should strive to make more of those happen.)
14. What are some instances in which things seemed like they were falling apart when really you were on the cusp of a total breakthrough?
Given time, most things explain themselves to us. We see why it didn’t work with one person, how attending one school was better than the one we were heartbroken we didn’t get into, how one friendships’ dissolve or jobs’ ending made way for a much better relationship or opportunity. We often forget that the things that seem the worst are usually crucial redirects, and remembering the ones we’ve been through retrospectively helps us to appreciate whatever seemingly insurmountable challenge is in front of us right now.
15. In the grand scheme of it all, if you were to objectively look back on your life, does this small instance, this inconvenience, this moment, really matter?
Does worrying matter as much as enjoying myself would have? Does revenge upon the ex-friend, new girlfriend, coworker you can’t stand — and time spent dwelling on this negativity — really serve you in any way? Will you look back and be glad you spent your life doing that, or will you wish you behaved better — differently — upon realizing that nothing matters more than kindness, at the end of the day? It’s so easy — too easy — to get caught up in the minutiae of everyday life, especially the petty annoyances that we feel we need to fix. But if we can learn to grasp a more objective perspective, we spend more time cultivating the things that will matter in the long term, and less time on the things that we’ll forget about anyway.