If you're feeling stuck, stressed, uninspired or just a little too meh, there's nothing wrong with you--life isn't all peach pie. But successful people are the ones who can kick themselves in the rear and get going again, and the world's top leaders and executives ask themselves profound questions to focus and jumpstart the new life they want.
Can I commit to this for the long haul?
In a 1996 letter to stockholders, investment guru Warren Buffett famously wrote, "If you aren't willing to own a stock for 10 years, don't even think about owning it for 10 minutes." Later, in 1998, he echoed that idea in another letter, describing Berkshire Hathaway's favorite holding period as "forever".
While today's culture might push for immediate gratifications, and while it's impossible to know what other opportunities might come to and grow you, if you don't currently feel willing to stick with the hard work of a project or idea for years or even decades, your passion for that project even your entire career path might need reevaluation.
Is what I'm about to do worthy of the last day of my life?
Steve Jobs is noted for saying, "I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'no' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."
The idea here is to get clarity about what matters most to you, and to commit to spending your time working for that as if you might never get the opportunity to do so again. Don't choose what you'll regret, and have the courage to get out of patterns that don't bring you joy.
Am I offering an example of integrity and how to do things right?
In a talk at the World Economic Forum, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma told the story of how he promised one of his teachers he would stay put in his first job. Ma kept that promise and gained this insight:
"Your first job is your most important. Not necessarily a company that has a great name, but you should find a boss that can teach you how to be a human being, how to do things properly, and stay there. Give yourself a promise: I will stay there for three years."
This quote should inspire you not only to find mentors of incredible integrity and knowledge, but to be a teacher yourself. Clarify what you morally stand for and always ask yourself if your behavior warrants modeling. If it doesn't, change.
What would I do if I weren't afraid?
When asked what advice she would give her younger self, Facebook CEO and LeanIn.org founder Sheryl Sandberg said, "When you hear someone say you can't do something, know that you can and start figuring out how. Ask yourself, 'What would I do if I weren't afraid?'"
We often stay in what we perceive to be safest, but those things are not necessarily the things that grow, inspire or fulfill us. Everything has risk and the potential for failure and judgment, and we're often much more capable than we believe, so let go of the fear and try what excites and interests you most.
Am I giving the same support I want for myself to others?
Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said, "Please help others rise. Greatness comes not from a position, but from helping build the future. We have an obligation to pull others up."
Sometimes, as we strive for our own dreams and fight our own battles, we feel powerless and lose the sense that we still have the strength, resources, skills or intelligence to aid anybody else. But the ability to serve is not dependent upon anything but your basic willingness to do so, and service is what builds the empathy so vital to the connections that make life meaningful. Make people your priority and, even as you improve their lives, they will lift you where you want to go.