If you want to improve, you have to ask yourself the right questions.
Self-reflection is the key to all personal development. People tend to think it's about reading the right self-help book, or attending a Tony Robbins seminar, but the truth is, personal development can happen in any moment, anytime, anywhere.
All you have to do is ask yourself the right questions, to get to the root of what's holding you back.
As 2017 starts to come to an end, self-reflection is top-of-mind for me. I like to take the last two months of every year to really look back and audit how things went, what worked well, what didn't--and most importantly, what I need to improve upon next in order to continue growing.
Here are some of the questions I like to ask myself at the end of every year, and questions I'd suggest as prompts to get you thinking about how you can continue to improve as well:
1. "What was I doing a year ago?"
A fun exercise that always helps keep things in perspective is to question what you were doing a year ago.
A year ago, I was still living in Chicago. I had just left my 9-5 job and was very unsure of my future. Today, I live in Los Angeles and spend my days working with incredibly intelligent CEOs and highly successful serial entrepreneurs through my agency, Digital Press.
Looking back a single year reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for.
2. "Do I enjoy how I'm spending my time?"
If you're not enjoying your day to day, no amount of money or external rewards will make you feel more fulfilled.
As the year comes to a close, question what really makes you feel alive and what feels like a burden. Then, question how you can remove those burdens in the months to come.
3. "Who do I spend the most time with?"
I am such a firm believer that you are a direct reflection of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
Ask yourself if you're spending time with true friends, people who enrich your life, or casual friends, people always asking for more and giving you less.
Your friends should be people who inspire you to become a better version of yourself.
4. "How is my money being spent?"
I see money as fuel. It's what powers your airplane and allows you to do the things you want to do in life.
A lot of people forget that there are two ways to make more money. One is to work harder and earn more. The other is to spend less. (Consumerism tends to encourage us against the latter.)
Do a quick audit of your spending habits, and see if you can get some of those impulse purchases under control.
5. "What do I want to learn next?"
I find most people reach a plateau as soon as they stop being curious, and instead fixate on doing things purely for financial gain--or the approval of others.
But curiosity never leads you astray.
Ask yourself what you want to learn next, what will make you grow beyond wherever you're at currently, and then make decisions that allow you to nurture that curiosity.
It will only lead to good things.
6. "How are my 5 buckets being filled?"
Each of us has 5 buckets which we fill with our time.
- Career: what we do to earn a living for ourselves.
- Fulfillment: what we do to feel more connected to ourselves.
- Community: those who inspire our interests, teach us, etc.
- Personal health: what we eat, how we exercise, etc.
- Intimate relationships: significant other, close friends, family.
It's worth taking time to question (on a regular basis) how each of these 5 buckets are being filled. Sometimes, you'll find you are spending far too much time being social and too little time working toward a project or a goal. Or sometimes, you'll find you haven't spoken to your family in months because you've been so busy.
Audit how your time is being spent, so that you can keep those 5 buckets as balanced as possible.
7. "How can I be more helpful--to those around me, and to myself?"
It's taken me a long time to learn that if you can't spend all your time trying to make everyone around you happy.
You have to prioritize keeping yourself happy too.
Which is why it's worth questioning both, simultaneously.
What can you do to be more helpful to those around you? How can you be more encouraging, more patient? And at the same time, how can you do those same things toward yourself?
Personal development is an ongoing practice. It's not a destination. It's not something you do once and then you're a "perfect person" for the rest of your life.
Personal development is your ability to continuously ask yourself these questions on a daily basis, and slowly improve over time.
Like water over rocks, who you are is sculpted over years and years.