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20 Questions That Could Change Your Life
MAY
11
Finding the answers starts with posing the right questions—and Martha Beck has 20 to get you started.
1. What questions should I be asking myself?
At first I thought asking yourself what you should be asking yourself was redundant. It isn't. Without this question, you wouldn't ask any others, so it gets top billing. It creates an alert, thoughtful mind state, ideal for ferreting out the information you most need in every situation. Ask it frequently.

2. Is this what I want to be doing?
This very moment is, always, the only moment in which you can make changes. Knowing which changes are best for you comes, always, from assessing what you feel. Ask yourself many times every day if you like what you're doing. If the answer is no, start noticing what you'd prefer. Thus begins the revolution.

3. Why worry?
These two words, considered sincerely, can radically reconfigure the landscape of your mind. Worry rarely leads to positive action; it's just painful, useless fear about hypothetical events, which scuttles happiness rather than ensuring it. Some psychologists say that by focusing on gratitude, we can shut down the part of the brain that worries. It actually works!

4. Why do I like {cupcakes} more than I like {people}?
Feel free to switch out the words in brackets: You may like TV more than exercise, or bad boys more than nice guys, or burglary more than reading. Whatever the particulars, every woman has something she likes more than the somethings she's supposed to like. But forcing "virtues"—trying to like people more than cupcakes—drives us to vices that offer false freedom from oppression. Stop trying to like the things you don't like, and many vices will disappear on their own.

5. How do I want the world to be different because I lived in it?
Your existence is already a factor in world history—now, what sort of factor do you want it to be? Maybe you know you're here to create worldwide prosperity, a beautiful family, or one really excellent bagel. If your impressions are more vague, keep asking this question. Eventually you'll glimpse clearer outlines of your destiny. Live by design, not by accident.

6. How do I want to be different because I lived in this world?
In small ways or large, your life will change the world—and in small ways or large, the world will change you. What experiences do you want to have during your brief sojourn here? Make a list. Make a vision board. Make a promise. This won't control your future, but it will shape it.

7. Are {vegans} better people?
Again, it doesn't have to be vegans; the brackets are for you to fill in. Substitute the virtue squad that makes you feel worst about yourself, the one you'll never have the discipline to join, whether it's ultra-marathoners or mothers who never raise their voices. Whatever group you're asking about, the answer to this question is no.

8. What is my body telling me?
As I often say, my mind is a two-bit whore—by which I mean that my self-justifying brain, like any self-justifying brain, will happily absorb beliefs based on biases, ego gratification, magical thinking, or just plain error. The body knows better. It's a wise, capable creature. It recoils from what's bad for us, and leans into what's good. Let it.

9. How much junk could a chic chick chuck if a chic chick could chuck junk?
I believe this question was originally posed by Lao Tzu, who also wrote, "To become learned, each day add something. To become enlightened, each day drop something." Face it: You'd be better off without some of your relationships, many of your possessions, and most of your thoughts. Chuck your chic-chick junk, chic chick. Enlightenment awaits.

10. What's so funny?
Adults tend to put this question to children in a homicidal-sounding snarl, which is probably why as you grew up, your laughter rate dropped from 400 times a day (for toddlers) to the grown-up daily average of 15. Regain your youth by laughing at every possible situation. Then, please, tell us what's funny—about everyday life, about human nature, even about pain and fear. We'll pay you anything.

Next: 10 more questions to think about.


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