OWNER'S MANUAL

11 Life-Changing Questions You Must Ask Yourself

Ask yourself these questions every day. Without fail. And then, based on your answers, take action.
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Keep this list handy. Ask yourself these questions every day--without fail. And then, based on your answers, take action.

1. Who would cry the most at my funeral?

Those are people who love you unconditionally. Start returning the feeling.

2. Do I spend enough time with the people who would cry the most at my funeral?

Probably not. Even though those are the people who see the good in you, and make you feel good about yourself.

3. Who would I want to cry the most at my funeral?

Chances are those are the people you neglect the most. You care about them but you're taking them for granted.

Stop taking them for granted.

4. Am I proud to tell people where I work?

If not, it's time to start looking elsewhere. Titles come and go. Money comes and goes. Pride is forever.

5. Is my company a business I would want my children to run?

There may be aspects of your business you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, much less your kids: insufferable customers, unbearable employees, difficult working conditions, uncertain long-term prospects.

If you would say to your child, "No, I wouldn't want you to have to deal with that..." why do allow yourself to continue to deal with that?

Naturally you want your kids to be happy. You also deserve to be happy. List the problems, then fix the problems.

If you want a better future for your kids, show them the way by making a better future for yourself.

6. Does today feel different than yesterday?

It should, if only in a very small way. Otherwise you're sitting still.

7. Do I say "no" more than I say "yes"?

"No" ensures today will be exactly the same as yesterday. Or maybe worse.

F that.

8. Do I spend money instead of time?

Maybe you buy your kids "stuff" because you feel guilty for being away so much, or missing events, or being distracted most of the time. Maybe you buy your significant other "stuff" when you feel guilty about not paying enough attention or showing, by word and action, that you care.

Or maybe you spend money on productivity tools instead of putting in the time to change inefficient work habits. Or maybe you buy expensive fitness equipment and trendy workout gear instead of just sucking it up and working out more.

Money never produces the same results as time. Expensive clothes can't get you in shape; productivity apps can't make you more efficient; a new tablet can't transform your business life.

Money can change some things, temporarily. Time can change anything, forever.

And don't forget: Your kids will soon forget the video game you bought them but they'll never forget the afternoon you spent together.

9. Do I think of myself as a noun?

"I'm an inventor." "I'm a speaker." "I'm a writer."

You're in a box.

Start defining yourself as a noun and you start to feel like you've arrived (even when you haven't). Slowly your focus shifts to "being" rather than doing, to maintaining a sense of self rather than striving to continually improve specific skills.

And you slowly close yourself off to other activities, other ventures, and other possibilities.

Don't define yourself by what you do. Never let yourself be a noun. Be a person who does lots of verbs--and is always open to more.

10. Do I make people feel good about themselves?

Unexpected praise, like the gift given "just because," makes a huge impact.

Every day, people around you do good things. Praise at least one of them, sincerely and specifically. They'll feel great. You'll feel great.

11. Do I scare myself?

If not, you should.

Don't scare yourself with fear of the future, or the economy, or injury or death, but with things you decide to do that push, stretch, challenge, and leave you excited and thrilled and relieved in an "Oh my gosh I can't believe I did that!" way.

We all have fears. What matters is what we do when we're hesitant or nervous or afraid. When we turn away, we die a little inside; when we face a fear and do what we really want to do, we feel truly alive.

Are you living... or really living?

You only get one chance. Make sure you live.

IMAGE: epiic/Flickr
Last updated: Feb 19, 2013

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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