Browsing around on Facebook the other day (a favourite procrastination method), I ran across this. After reading it, I decided, as part of my ongoing work, to answer one question every day. This gives me time to really think about the question, and the answer. It’s only been a couple of days, but I am already finding it rewarding and revealing.
See, these questions Andrea Balt asks aren’t about your weight or how your last relationship ended or whether you really like the work you do for pay or your bucket list. They go deeper than that and ask for some real thought, probing your motivations, your desires, whether your self is expressed in what you do and say. They are about bringing you—the real you, the you are working on becoming, the ideal you—into sharper focus and closer to reality.
Some of the questions—what do you want to be remembered by, how do you manage your time, and so on—are fairly predictable. But she turns some of the questions into deeper probes—what do you want to accomplish, and why? What sort of person brings you down and who lifts you up? How many of each do you have in your life? What is your manifesto for your life? What feeds your spirit?
These are the sorts of questions that require thoughtful responses. I find myself turning them over and over in my head as I drive to work, clean, cook, or stand in line at the bank. And then I go home and add to my response. There is always something more to say in response to these questions.
They aren’t all easy to answer, and some of them, if I am honest, will mean rethinking how I live my life, my attitude towards myself and those around me, and the plans I make for the future. Working on these and taking in what my responses mean, and what they imply for what I am doing (or not doing) in my life, will change how I live and act and see others.
Take this one, for example, number 26: “What physical exercise makes you sweat like you mean it and enjoy both the process and the afterward feeling? If you’re not currently practicing it, can you read more about it, surround yourself with people who practice it, sign up for a class, do whatever will motivate you to practice it?”
Andrea isn’t simply urging more physical movement—she is asking what movement feels good, is rewarding, for a person, and suggesting that activity—whatever it is—as a way to get that movement, that exercise, we all need. She’s not pointing to anything in particular—in fact, she uses very few concrete examples, and I appreciate that, because it opens the question up to anything I can imagine. She isn’t suggesting yoga, or fly fishing or gardening or rock climbing ot weight training or basketball as the perfect exercise. She is making the important point that if the physical movement is something we enjoy, we will do it—and that is what matters. I may feel I need to take a Pilates class, or run every day or learn to play handball, and even try to do it. But if I don’t enjoy it, I won’t keep it up, I may not do it at all. But by looking at physical exercise more holistically, I can choose something I do enjoy—walking, yoga, free weights, canoeing—and I am much more likely to do it. When I finish a yoga practice, I may be sore and tired—but I am also rejuvenated and I have done something for myself that I enjoy that is also good exercise.
Andrea does not offer canned suggestions—she doesn’t offer any at all. She suggests ways to look into your own heart and spirit, and to live out what you find there, in all the areas of life where it may be lacking. That may be work, or personal relationships, or self-care—but she is giving the reader paths into what is most them—ways to express themselves in their lives, not what others expect or suggest or even insist on.
As Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living. These 30 questions offer us ways to examine our lives, to see where we are not living our best selves, and ways to do that, for us—not for some mythical “typical reader.”
I dread some of them—they will show me how far off course I am, I know already—but in the end, I think they will offer me ways to return to my best self, to being who I most truly am, how I most truly am, living as fully myself as possible.
I invite you to read the questions, think about them—and see if you don’t change at least a few things in your life.