“If it’s still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk.” ~ Paulo Coelho
I felt stuck. Why could I never achieve anything? Why could I never do anything tangible?
Everyone else seemed to have no problem. You see, my friends could both work hard and grow themselves at the same time.
I felt stuck.
Every day when I came home after work I was just exhausted. I had no energy whatsoever to study my Chinese Mandarin (a long-term project of mine) or to go for a jog in the nearby forest. All my energy had been put into a job I didn’t even enjoy that much.
I just knew I could get more out of life. What I really wanted was to spend time on my own projects—to do what I love the most. Well, to me, the only way I could shift my reality was to basically to change priorities—to put life before work.
But how? How does one do that?
In practice, the only tangible solution I could see was to wake up early in the morning. Really, really early. That way I would be able to pour all my fresh energy into what is most important to me.
But I can’t do that. It’s crazy, right? That would change my entire way of living. It simply doesn’t fit the rest of the world.
So I decided it was crazy and went on with my life. Until one day when speaking to a colleague. We came upon the topic and after a while he asked me…
“What would happen if you did?”
I was silent.
“Yeah, what would really happen if I did?” I thought.
And he continued on the same path and said: “What wouldn’t happen if you did?”
I was silent again. I was thinking.
I could actually only see positive things happening from making this change in my life. Previously, I hadn’t even had the courage to really get out of the box of the problem and see what choices I had.
This question expanded my view of the world and literally changed my life. I was not so stuck anymore. And I realized that I had been so focused on the problem that I had been unable to see anything else.
I guess you can relate to those few moments in life when we finally are able to see something for what it really is. It doesn’t have to happen through a big life-changing question. Sometimes a simple question is enough.
So with focus on solving my problem I gave it a try, waking up early in the morning. And you see, when I do something, I like to do it big. So I set my goal to rise at 4:00 every morning.
That would give more than three hours of doing whatever I want with a fresh mind and relaxed body. Hopefully.
Now, I don’t want you to think that it’s that easy to basically “change time zone” and become an early riser, but with the right mindset anyone is able to.
For me, it was the question that made it all possible. The question that changed my life.
I think the main reason this question helped me was because I was brutally honest with myself. There are so many things that actually would (or at least could) happen if I did. At the same time, I realized that none of this would happen unless I went for it.
For example, I would be able to…
- Finally start that website of my own.
- Keep a daily exercise routine without anything getting in my way.
- Prepare romantic breakfasts for my fiancée, at least once in a while
- De-stress my entire life by having a few things “under my belt” when work starts already
- Take a big leap forward in my Chinese studies
And most important of all, I would be able to…
- Set the direction of my own life, instead of being just lead down the road life takes me.
And before I tell you if all this really happened, let’s dig into that questions a little bit more.
The Question Explained
I have discovered that this question I mentioned above can actually be part of a bigger pattern. You see, there are four alternatives to this question:
- What would happen if you did?
- What would happen if you didn’t?
- What wouldn’t happen if you did?
- What wouldn’t happen if you didn’t?
I like to imagine these questions laid out like four quadrants in a matrix. Usually, we are all stuck in the quadrant “What would happen if you didn’t?”—focusing on the problem at hand.
What all the other three questions help us to do is to move ourselves away from there and into the other quadrants. You might be able to find that these new quadrants lead to new perspectives and new insights.
Isn’t that powerful?
I mean, if you can think of a problem or troublesome situation you have in your life, then you will be able come out much stronger on the other side after running it through these questions. You can, can you not?
I have at least realized that by asking myself open and strong questions I can open up my life to more and more possibilities. Asking the questions is just the beginning, but often times getting momentum is the biggest challenge we face.
So I urge everyone to ask yourself this question as soon as you find yourself stuck. It helped me in one situation and continues to expand my view of the world every day.
So Does It Really Work?
It’s not a magic question. But for the purpose of giving me new alternatives of how to live my life, it sure worked well. You see, those things I mentioned before that would happen if I did, that was just the top of the ice berg.
In fact, I wrote down three full pages, hand written, about how my life could change. And that has been my main source of motivation ever since.
I can understand if you feel that becoming an early riser is not a really serious life change and that I didn’t have a really tough problem to begin with. If that’s the case, then I encourage you to use this question on ever bigger problems.
Use it to make real life changes.
At least I put my life before work nowadays and I feel that I achieve something for me, every single day. That was what the question helped me to do.
I am now an early riser, speak pretty darn well Chinese, have set up several websites, and am able to take those morning runs almost every day.
You see, this question literally changed my life.
Photo by Ewen Roberts