Monday, December 31, 2012
Two Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Morning
I recently spoke at a conference in Silicon Valley and I was pleased to
stay for the rest of the event afterwards. The final speaker, Connie
Podesta, said something which struck my curiosity. She said, "I am going to
share the two most important questions you will ever answer. If you answer
no to either of them I will know some things about you. I will know you are
more stressed than you need to be. I will know you are unhappier than you
need to be." She had my attention.
Here are the two questions:
#1 Are you proud of the choices you are making at work?
#2 Are you proud of the choices you are making at home?
We might feel tempted to push these questions aside as being overly
simplistic. Yet, as Oliver Wendell Holmes is credited with saying, "I
wouldn't give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity but I'd give
my right arm for simplicity on the other side of complexity."
One reason these questions strike me as simplicity on the other side of
complexity is they remind us to pay attention to our current choices rather
than our current results. Our results, whether we are currently
experiencing success or failure, can be misleading because they happen
after the fact. They are lag indicators. Consider how these questions can
In Times of Failure.There are clearly times when things are not going as we
want them at work or at home. We could complain about this. We could make a
fuss. We could become discouraged. Yet, if we ask these two questions every
morning we can focus our energy on the choices we can make. Messed up
something? Fine. We can get back on track. We can ask whether we are proud
of the choices we are making now.
In Times of Success. Success can be a poor teacher. It can teach us to
under invest in the things which generated the success in the first place. I
have argued this more fully in a piece for Harvard Business Review where I
intentionally overstate the case in order to make it: success can be a
catalyst for failure. We can begin to coast along and in the very moment of
our greatest outward achievements we can make choices which undermine our
In Rudyard Kippling's beautiful poem "If" he brings together both of these
scenarios when he penned counsel to his son:
"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same..."
Kippling cautions his son to distrust both success (triumph) and disaster
(failure) as imposters. He warns him both are deceptive.
Asking these two questions and becoming more deliberate in our choices can
seem like a small thing in the moment. Sometimes we feel we are too busy
living to really think about life. Yet failure to reflect on these
questions could contribute to a life of regrets. Indeed, an Australian
nurse, Bronnie Ware, cared for people in the last 12 weeks of their lives
and she recorded the most often-discussed regrets. At the top of the list:
"I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life
others expected of me." Next on the list: "I wish I hadn't worked so hard"
and "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings."
I am not sure these are the most important two questions we will ever ask,
but surely we will have fewer regrets if we spend a moment every morning
Edited by: Lawyer Asad
Posted by Lawyer Asad at Monday, December 31, 2012