This article originally appeared on Positivity Blog and is reprinted with permission.
The one who asks questions doesn't lose his way.--African proverb
One of the most basic but difficult things when trying to grow is simply to keep yourself on the right track, to make sure your mind doesn't take a wrong turn. However, in day-to-day life your ambitions and dreams may be forgotten among all your responsibilities and old habits.
One thing that's been useful for me is to continually ask myself questions in various situations throughout my week. By asking yourself helpful questions you'll get helpful answers.
Here are five of my favorite questions. Adding these – or your own favorites – to external reminders such as a bracelet or posted notes can be very useful when your mind is headed down a slippery slope of negativity.
1. Is this useful?
This is a good way to weed out thought habits that may not be so useful. Your mind may, for instance, fool you into believing that it's the right thing to go around being angry at someone because, well, you're right. Or that it's right to dwell on a problem because you had such bad luck.
Both thought patterns are quite seductive because they can fool you into believing that you are doing the "right" or "normal" thing. But are such thoughts useful to you? Probably not. They'll just create suffering in your life, waste your time and do little to solve a practical situation. By asking if something is useful you can stop yourself while heading down a negative path and turn toward the light again.
2. What's good about this situation?
Often you'll find a lesson within a negative experience or a way to reframe the situation and create some positivity and enthusiasm within yourself.
Asking yourself this question may seem silly at first. You may not find anything positive or good initially. But after you've started to ask yourself the question more and more, you'll probably find something to learn from the situation.
And the more positive and good things you can find in experiences, the more your mind starts to accept that you can indeed find something good in just about any situation. You just have to get used to thinking about things in this new and unfamiliar way.
3. How can I give value in this situation?
This is a good way to improve your relationships and interactions. Here are reasons to give value in your everyday life:
What value can you give in a situation/to another person? Well, a few suggestions would be: bringing a positive attitude, lending a listening ear, cheering someone up, offering useful advice, or creating fun or excitement for people in your life.
By asking yourself this question, you can add more value to other people's lives--and yours.
4. Am I taking this too seriously?
This is a wonderful question to ask yourself to lower stress levels and be able to feel better and perform better in a situation where you have created a lot of internal pressure on yourself. It takes much of the self-imposed seriousness and weight off on your shoulders. It makes life lighter.
5. Will this matter five years from now?
This question can really put things in perspective. It can make just about any difficulty that you are having right now seem a bit trivial and not as important and heavy as you had imagined over the last few days, weeks, or months. You may discover that you've expanded and made the problem a lot more terrifying than it actually is.
Asking yourself a combination of these questions may help you to put just about anything in your life into a more healthy and relaxed perspective.