Challenge yourself with these 6 daily questions
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Challenge yourself with these 6 daily questions

I know. When you talk to yourself people think there’s something wrong with you. But I’m going to suggest that you do it anyway.

Specifically, I’m going to suggest that you ask yourself six questions at the end of every day. I didn’t come up with these questions — executive coach and leadership author Marshall Goldsmith did — but I like them. The goal of this self-questioning? To challenge yourself to be more engaged in your work. And you can extend the technique to other areas of life if you wish.

Here are Goldsmith’s engagement questions:

    1. “Did I do my best to set clear goals today?” In other words, did I vow to complete tasks X and Y by the end of the week, and task Z by the end of the quarter? Or did I promise myself that I would find a way to praise my subordinates at least once a month?

    2. “Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?” If I set goals X, Y and Z and didn’t actually do anything about them, I’m moving backwards and I feel like it. Not engaging.

    3. “Did I do my best to find meaning today?” Not to get too philosophical or anything, but this is actually an existentialist question. You can be a religious existentialist or a non-religious one, but in either case it’s your responsibility as a free human being to find meaning in what you do. To paraphrase Woody Guthrie: Nobody else can do it for you; you’ve got to do it for yourself.

    4. “Did I do my best to be happy today?” Similar to the meaning question, but not identical. The former is more in your head, while the latter is in your heart, and often has to do with gratitude. You can almost always find something to smile about.

    5. “Did I do my best to build/maintain positive relationships today?” None of us exists in a vacuum. Other people are an inevitable component of engagement. You can’t be engaged in work without being engaged with your co-workers.

    6. “Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?” This covers things like, did I try to stay tuned in all during that 45-minute meeting and contribute throughout? Did I patiently and thoroughly answer the questions that new employee asked me about procedures? Did I do that extra piece of research to make sure my report on market conditions was complete?

Behavioral effect
Goldsmith says that when you regularly ask these questions, you get better at the behaviors. He told Talent Management magazine that he has studied more than 2,500 participants in his classes who committed to use the questions, and 65% of them improved on at least four of the behaviors. Fully 89% improved on at least one behavior.

If you do try out the questions, and think they help, you might want to consider promoting them with your team. After all, their degree of engagement helps determine how successful you are as a manager.

Finally, if you really like the technique, you could try extending it to questions like these, which Goldsmith also asks himself daily:

  • Did I learn and/or create something new?
  • Did I avoid angry or destructive comments about others?
  • Did I forgive myself and/or others for perceived mistakes?
  • Did I say or do something nice for each member or any members of my immediate family?
  • Did I exercise and/or meditate?
  • Did I eat healthily?

OK, maybe few of us have the time to sit down at the end of each day and put ourselves through a 30-minute internal Q&A session. But the point is that by challenging ourselves regularly with questions like these, we’re putting ourselves on notice that we’re serious about improving our behavior. And when we do this, we do tend to improve.

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