“The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering.” – David Whyte

You’re probably up to your eyeballs with all the usual New Year’s motivational messages.  So let’s conclude this first week of the new year by considering a practice that requires no rigidity, rules or reminders.

It’s the simple practice of asking questions.  Asking powerful questions is how to move deliberately along the winding path toward you. Which is where the real raw deep motivation comes.  Not from the outside. But from the inside.

A powerful question will stop you in your tracks. It will make you tilt your head and say, “Well, I never thought about that.”  Ultimately it will bring you closer to you, where all your best wisdom hangs out.

Here are five game-changers.  You don’t have to prod yourself to write each question down and journal on it for hours. (Though if that’s your go-to starting point…have at it.)  These are for contemplation, observation and discovery.   The answers you find will sometimes arrive without any words. Just a knowing.  For now, just know there is no wrong way to play with these…

 

1 – What really matters?

It’s a noisy world. Everyone agrees. People feel pounded by messages, marketing and mindless opinions.

But there’s a gift in this noisy world.  And that is this:  If you aspire to be conscious, powerful and aware, then it is mandatory to go inward and know yourself.

That goes for business owners and job holders alike.

In business, especially, there is such a temptation to “do this quick fix” or “try that marketing hack.”  Until soon, you find yourself in a very noisy business grabbing for every bright shiny thing outside of you – and you don’t even know yourself, your business or why you’re doing any of it in the first place.

So start here.  Find out what really matters.  Not in a binge of list-making and over-thinking. (Though that could work as a springboard).  But in a compassionate kind observational way.  Spend time pondering this question, watching your actions to see what compels you, observing your smile to see what truly delights you.  The answer to this question points the way for so many directions in your work and your world.

 

2 – What am I avoiding by worrying?

Every time (and I mean EVERY time) I sit down to write an article or an eBook, or my book, or create trainings for my clients, I witness myself go through a ring of fire.  That fire is a low-grade “worry.”  Worry about the content being good enough. Worry about the people who will surely think it’s lame. Worry about whether or not I should stop what I’m doing to make sure that I remembered to put collard greens on my assistant’s grocery list this morning.  You name it, the brain can come up with it.

Of course I discovered that this worry is a way to avoid the deep work of writing or creating ways to teach strategies to my clients.

And yes, I discovered that I was also avoiding the probability of getting some lame comment from someone who’s pissed at me for not playing music anymore and wants to accuse me of selling out.

But when I really dove into this question, I discovered that what I’m really avoiding – what many of us are really avoiding – is intimacy and vulnerability.   With myself, with others, with my writing, with the moment.

And so, in order to avoid intimacy, my mind can drum up all kinds of shit to worry about, fiddle with, pretend is important.

The thing you are avoiding is usually less rewarding to your mind than worrying.   As my client best-selling author Colleen O’Grady said once… Getting the idea for her book was really great. Sitting down each day to write it?  Not so great.

If you chose a Word-of-the-Year that has called you to expand, then it’s probably also calling you to execute.  As in, “get some stuff done.”  As in, “take some steps.”  As in, “call someone,” or “go somewhere.”  The word, the intention, the idea is so much more exciting than the actual doing.

And so?  Our mind tries to distract us with worry, obsession, thoughts that keep us from taking steps.  Ask yourself honestly, what you are avoiding by doing this.

 

3 – Whose business am I in?

Byron Katie says, “When I am mentally in your business, it keeps me from being present in my own.”

We are “mentally in someone’s business” when we think we know what’s best for others, when we spend our time worrying and wondering what someone else is up to, and whether or not they’re going to let us down, piss us off, or keep us up.   When we do this, we literally absent our spirit from our own bodies.

Come back to you and ask what’s your business.  What’s best for you, what matters for you, and if you are being honest, or feeling needy or out of control.   And then you can give yourself the stunning power of all that attention.

Otherwise, your days become a wellspring of anxiety.  It will be uncomfortable at first to come back home, back to your center.  But slowly, you will find that it’s really the only place where true power and strength resides.

Byron Katie also says, “To think that I know what’s best for anyone else is to be out of my business. Even in the name of love, it is pure arrogance, and the result is tension, anxiety, and fear. Do I know what’s right for me? That is my only business. Let me work with that before I try to solve your problems for you.”  (Here’s a really quick video of Byron Katie sharing this idea.)

 

4 – Where can I spend money to save time (or eliminate stress)?

I start each and every one of our Uplevel client retreats with a hand-selected set of questions designed to move these business owners out of small constricted work-a-day thinking and into a more expansive entrepreneurial approach to their work and their lives.

This one question – “Where can I spend money to save time or eliminate stress?” is the all-time client favorite.   I adapted it from one of my coaches, Dan Sullivan, who likes to say, “If you have a problem and you have the money to fix it, then you don’t have a problem.”

As business owners, our unique advantage is that when we are free to create…we make money.   We’re the rainmakers.  When we have the space to make rain, we make it!

Most of us, however, spend way too much time and struggle on things that don’t allow us this necessary space. We’ve been well-trained by a lifetime of institutional thinking to believe we’re the indentured servants.  That we must slog along doing and being things just because we’ve always done and been them.

The answers I’ve gotten to this question have changed everything for me:    For instance, I fly out of Charlotte, NC, which is 2 hours from Asheville where I live.  I decided to take Uber each time.   Yes, it’s pricey.  And yes, my drivers think I’m a whack job.   But I get a solid 90 minutes of work done in the back, and my mental energy is not spent finding the business valet parking deck, and dealing with tickets and shuttles.  It’s a massive ROI for me and eliminates all kinds of extra stress.  You may believe that you’re not in a financial state to make such a bold move – but remember to consider that there’s a more powerful way to view your time and money.

 

5 – The peace I’m seeking…is it true that it’s not already here?

This is what I ask myself before I sit down to meditate each morning.  It’s not a question that your mind can find the answer to.  (In fact, your mind will most likely want to chime in and let you know that there is no peace anywhere. And then it will list all the reasons why.)  This is a question that sets you up to actually experience that – holyshit! – yes, there is a sense of peace that’s already here. Maybe it’s buried under a million thoughts, maybe it’s just a small little glow. But I can sense it and feel it.  But I’m not here to give you the answer to this. You get to go find out for yourself. And yes, you may have to play with this one.  But that’s the fun of it.

And the real gift of all of these questions is that they get to be fun. Playful.  They create curiosity, not duty.  I get hundreds of notes from clients thanking me for “changing their lives.”   The truth is that they changed their lives.  At Uplevel, we teach our clients how to grow and build their business – and one of the ways we do it is by connecting them to who they truly are. And we do that by asking questions.

Now, it’s your turn.  Let me know in the comments which question calls to you the most as you read this…

28 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Colleen Bateman

    Your “every new shiny thing” comment. Oh. My. Goodness! That is me… I always said I have OSS (Oh! Something Shiny) but I always thought it was my Hubby that suffered! Nope! It’s me!!! Is there help? A cure? (I always thought it just referred to sparkly jewelry and such. Again-nope)

  • Cecile

    Dear Christine,

    I took a long time to get to your email, and all the questions deeply resonate for me. I want to thank you for your wonderful writing, it isn’t always such a pleasure to read you. It feels like you are speaking, so clearly, right next to me. I hope one day I find the way to meet you. Thank you

    • Cecile

      Sorry my auto’ correct is crazy ! It **IS** always such a pleasure… etc !! Thanks!

  • Daphne Dissel

    Wow the first time I saw this mail, i refused to open it…. today I have…. I must be honest and say each and every aspect spoke to me….. and to actually realize how easy I get off the track and side ways with each and every one…. #5 — PEACE…. Peace Enters As Christ Enters…. just to know it is there and I just sat down to meditate and reconnect with my inner thought I found the everlasting peace is there like a mist cloud over the sea…. I want to allow that mist to come into my life and bring the coolness and calmness I so often let vanish in the heat…. thank you Christine….

  • ute

    a question that came up for me
    “How much money do I need to spend to make more money?”
    Being a independent teacher teaching at other schools, it would be wise to employ someone to do my “paperwork” for me, which will afford me more time to teach more children and increase my income.

  • Mindy Elder

    Hi Christine,
    Thank you for this article. Question 1 resonates the most with me, but I know a few other business owners that need to take a lesson from Question 3. I have recently created a business based on what matters to me. My mission is to sell fabulous second-hand clothing items at prices everyone can afford. I accomplish this by keeping my overhead as low as possible. Some people don’t understand why I price items so affordably, while many others seem very appreciative of my efforts to help the community save money. Rather than second-guessing what matters to me, I know it feels right doing my business this way. If it doesn’t work in the end, I will walk away holding my head high. I am currently working on a Bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration and hope to integrate the experience as a resale business owner into my future career.

  • Sherry

    For me, right now in my life, I’d say, Who’s business am I in?
    My husband and I have felt a deep hurt by family in our business. This question really helped me to think about who’s business am I in? I’ve definitely not been in my business due to the pain & hurt. It’s time to let it go and let them be about their business and we need to be about our business. Do what’s best for us & our business. I refer to this as “running my race”. I desperately need this.

  • Jeannie

    Man, saw the email and #1 hit me in the gut. I had a week that really drove this home. Driving to my part-time job in the dark on Wednesday morning (still gotta eat), I witnessed a terrible, terrible event. Things that followed (how others reacted to the event, conclusions the investigators reached) made it even worse. Seeing people be so terrible to themselves and to each other, even as total strangers sprang into action trying in vain to save a total stanger’s life, really shook me.
    And a few hours later, a dear friend who was clearly deathly ill refused to go to the ER (because she couldn’t get work done there…) and I ended up calling the fire department in her town. She is still in the hospital and because she waited too long to get treatment, she is not responding to anything. She could still die. And for what??? What good is she to her clients if she dies?
    It’s not an exaggeration. Never lose sight of what REALLY matters.

  • Lilieth

    worrying about what other people are doing, what they’re going to say about what good or what’s bad. A lot of time I taught somethings it’s not good enough to do, to say, to use so, I leave it alone, then I see someone else using it, doing it, saying it.

  • Corinne Meharg

    This is a beautiful posting Christine, perfect to bring you back to center at the beginning of the year. I know what matters to me and have peace at the core. Sometimes you need someone else to remind you to ask these questions. Thank you for asking.

  • Lorna

    Who’s business am I in?
    That’s a zinger of a question.
    Made me realise I’m never in my own biz, I’m always in someone (sometimes several other people’s) else’s and that’s not helping.
    This is such a thought provoking article but written in such a light way.
    Mucho thanks Christine 🙏

    • Christine Kane

      You’re most welcome Lorna. And yeah, Byron Katie nailed it with this question. I take no credit here! (but it’s great to get it as a reminder, right?) And you’re not alone in that awareness. The great thing is that you can catch yourself. That starts the waking up.

  • Lydia Kimenyi

    Likewise I have being going years and years of no prodivity because I have not understood neither thought of what I am doing (2). I’ve just been stage and need to ask myself this question deeply. Even as I am writing this post I keep deleting some words which I feel don’t communicate my thoughts clearly. I need more guidance and help… all the other questions are areas I need help with..fear fear fear

  • Georgiana

    The “what am i avoiding by worrying?” and “what really matters?” Both strongly resonate with me. Thanks for sharing Christine!

    • Christine Kane

      Thanks Georgiana! Glad it helped.

      • Rosemary “Toya” Lawson

        1- What Really Matters? & 3- Whose Business Am I in? Both Of These Really Resonates With Me. I Feel So Bombarded With All Of The Noise That Is Going On, Along With Many Business Opportunities Offered & Family Drama. I Am Pressing In To What Really Matters And Taking Inventory. This Has Led Me To Pull Away From Phone Calls And Social Media For A Period Of Time In Order To Clean & Detox, Pray, Meditate, Read & Rest. I See The Importance Of Minding My Own Business. I Am Also Letting Go Of Old Warn Out Relationships That Are Draining My Energy As Well As Letting Go Of Things I Have Been Holding On To. I Feel Better Already.

  • Loretta

    This article was a great way to start my day. #2 really spoke to me.
    What am I avoiding by worrying? It is paralyzing at times. Dealing with this one thing will empower me in so many ways. Even though I have a successful business I know I am capable of so much more. Worrying is death to any new idea. Not anymore!

    • Christine Kane

      Loretta – Yes! And worrying really just delays everything, too.

  • Anthony I’dor’ah Chinwendu

    Whoever business am I in?
    You have really helped me a whole lot realize who I really am! I want to say thank you!
    I am so grateful that I am on the way to upleveling my life with Christine Kane. God bless you

  • Sandi

    #1 and #5 are both really powerful for me….thanks so much for a thought provoking article!

    • Christine Kane

      Awesome Sandi! You’re most welcome and happy new year!

  • Lisa

    Number 2 for sure
    I am always worrying and this often gets in the way of decision making or I make decisions to ease my anxiety … Wow

    • Christine Kane

      Ah. I love this Lisa. “I make decisions to ease my anxiety.” And I’m betting that they are sometimes rushed and not really based in wisdom. (I say this from experience.) What would a decision look like if I didn’t have anxiety? <<< That might be a good question to ponder.

  • Erma

    Question one is one I am pondering as I move through transitions in my life to create healing space for parents of premies who have trauma related to having theie child/children in the Neonatal ICU. I am moving past the noise of my mind to the quiet to hear the ways to create this group.

    Question 5 brought up a beautiful memory of my needing an energy shift over the holidays and how openiing my spirit to receive that energy shift happened in a beautiful way. I had to be willing to receive it.

    • Christine Kane

      Beautiful Erma! And what amazing work you do in the world!

  • Yael

    Wow, the What am I avoiding question resonated loud and clear with me. Seems when I have the most on my plate to take care of that I worry the most. And I spend hours worrying in order to avoid getting started on the huge to do list that I have. That is something I i’m going to work on going forward. Thanks for a very thought-provoking post.

Leave a Reply to Anonymous
Cancel Reply