The Three Magic Questions to Pull Yourself Out From a Hole
If the pandemic taught me anything is that you can’t foresee everything that can upset your current reality. Life is always full of ups and downs and while we can ready ourselves for some of the downs, there are always events or perceptions that will catch us off guard.
You can be a balanced, generally happy, mature and emotionally aware individual, still, there will be situations when the rug is yanked from under your feet. Some of them are familiar and you have already gathered the tools in your personal virtual toolbox to fight it and win, and some are unexpected and throw you a curveball that will seem impossible to handle.
Our lives are different, our perceptions of reality are different, our reactions are different, but we are similar in the sense that we experience lows — even if our coping mechanisms vary.
We need to tailor our coping mechanisms to the situation and to our current mindsets. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are pointers that can help you restore the balance.
I recently hit a new low. I spent long days figuring out why it happened, but there are just too many variables and they all contributed to my depressed and anxious state. Trying to pinpoint the core problem usually works, but sometimes the problems are nothing but a huge bundle of emotions and events that you couldn’t yet process. None of them seems too important to deal with individually, but as a sum they create a mess within your mind, reflecting how you respond to your days.
I noticed the result before I could understand the source of it. I lost motivation — which seems incomprehensible given that I just published a book and I should be proud and happy about it. I am battling with raging imposter syndrome — regardless of the external praises. I feel tired — even if I sleep a lot. I feel lazy — even though I know how much I do every day. I feel more anxious about the pandemic — even though they have just lifted the quarantine and life starts to transition back to something less confined.
None of that makes sense. I should be okay, yet I don’t feel okay. Not knowing the reason leaves me with two options:
- Trying to figure out the root cause and changing it.
- Getting out of the hole without fully understanding why I am where I am.
When I started to practice coaching, I found one major shift in it compared to regular psychotherapy. Therapeutic measures usually go back to the root cause while coaching is future-focused and discovers the past hindrances as we advance.
Being down and suffering from low energy robs you from seeing things objectively, therefore the decisions you make reflect a distorted reality. I need to distance myself from my negative self-talk to make better daily decisions — be it about simple daily productivity, exercise, healthy eating or mindful practices.
As a self-coaching practice, I use three magic questions to make myself feel better without solving every problem at once.
1. What does accomplishment look like today?
When you are really low down, accomplishment is not the same as when you are fully energized and optimistic. So, focus on today! Some days, accomplishment means that you do the basic things around yourself, doing laundry, doing the dishes or getting out of bed. It can be just about writing one sentence or 100 words. It can be about crossing one single thing out of your to-do list.
It might be too small compared to a normal productivity day, but beating yourself up about not being where you want to be won’t help.
Define what your minimum accomplishment would look like and consider it a real feat. It’s not ”only” 100 words; it’s an amazing achievement today. Compare it to doing nothing and accept that there are days when even the smallest thing needs to be acknowledged.
2. What would it look like if it were easy?
I took this one from Tim Ferris and tailored it to my own daily struggles. Think about your desired accomplishment. What would it be like if it were easy?
Picture it and make a full mental image and description of it. When you suffer from writer’s block, the easy way would be if you just opened up your draft, you started to type and words were flowing effortlessly. If you struggle with getting your job done or feeding your kids with something healthy when all they want to eat is pizza, imagine how the easy situation would look like.
Think about it and see how very easy it is in your mind. In many cases, we make a lot of things difficult for ourselves by adding unnecessary layers and thinking to it. If you can imagine the simplicity you might notice the points where you are adding the complications yourself.
3. What is the smallest thing you can do today to get closer to it?
With this last question, I’m not suggesting to take up small habits. We don’t want habits here, sometimes it is not about thriving, just merely surviving. So when you already see in front of you how it would look easy, think about what s the first smallest step that you could do.
Don’t look at the problem as a whole. Don’t overthink and don’t analyse. Just think how the first step would look!
Would making your bed and letting in some fresh air make you feel more energized? Do it. Would unplugging all social media help to focus on your work? Unplug it all. Would just getting the laundry out of the way give you a sense of success? Give it two minutes.
Go towards the path of least resistance — believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be always difficult. Do it the easy way and be happy how you did it.
We self-sabotage our own days by always expecting perfection, high energy and productivity from ourselves. What if we deserved a pat on the back just for surviving?
If you feel low, just ask yourself the magic questions and pull yourself out of the hole.
What does accomplishment look like today?
What would it look like if it were easy?
What is the smallest thing I can do today to get closer to it?
Change your perspective and get better by removing unnecessary thinking and expectations. You can do this.