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Leading Life: Day by day

Updated: Mar 25, 2023

Welcome back to the Leading Life series! If you’ve been playing along, you’re now armed with a strong sense of both your purpose and your values. Keep in mind that we often have to sit with these for a bit before we’re confident that we've captured the core of who we are, so I'd encourage you to revisit your purpose and values over the coming weeks and modify them if necessary. Ideally, by the end of the summer you’ll have arrived at a solid foundation to guide you!

Of course, just writing down our core values and purpose—or setting any kind of intention for that matter—means nothing if we don’t put those principles into practice. And that’s where we’ll focus today.

Because I’ve promised to keep these Leading Life posts to 2-3 minutes in length, I’ll concentrate on a single technique called “daily questions,” recommended by Marshall Goldsmith in Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts—Becoming the Person You Want to Be. I’ve found this approach to be both simple and powerful.

Daily questions are just that—a series of questions you ask yourself every day. They can relate both to your overarching values and purpose as well as to the specific habits you’re currently aiming to build. Although Goldsmith asks daily questions at the end of each day, they can also be used to set an intention each morning (with a slight tweak).

Importantly, daily questions are always worded actively rather than passively and focus on effort rather than outcomes. As such, every daily question begins with “Did I do my best to…” This wording emphasizes things that are under our control and minimizes our temptation to use external circumstances as an excuse. You can rate yourself on a 10-point scale or just answer Yes/No. And if you’d like to use daily questions to set an intention in the morning, simply begin each question with “How will I do my best to…” and respond accordingly.

Goldsmith asks himself upwards of 20 questions each day. These include core questions like “Did I do my best to set clear goals?” and “Did I do my best to find meaning?” as well as specific queries such as “Did I do my best to say or do something nice for Kelly?” Evidently I have neither Goldsmith’s energy nor determination, because I can only manage a single daily question (and, likewise, a single self-improvement project) at a time.

Whatever number we choose, daily questions keep our goals and values top of mind and help us celebrate small wins. And remember, the point here is NOT to beat ourselves up when we haven’t given something our best effort. It’s simply an opportunity to learn… and possibly an invitation to change our list of daily questions to better reflect what actually matters to us. [See how I snuck those core values in yet again? :)]

Ready to give it a try? Why not use this one-page template that Victoria Fontana and I created for the EMPOWER group-coaching program. Or check out the free Daily Questions app. Either way, I hope that you find the process to be easy and rewarding.

As always, please reach out with any questions or comments. I look forward to seeing you again soon!

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