The Best Questions to Start and End Your Day
It’s just too much
I woke up this morning going, “Hmm, what would people struggle with the most right now?” And what I came up with is that there’s just “too much.” There’s way too much for us to struggle with. Coping is the only way through, and that’s why I decided to sit down and write this blog.
Today, I thought I would give you some tips on the two times of the day in which your brain is most receptive to new ideas – good ones. Positive ones. Ideas that turn your brain towards things that are good, positive and exciting…not foreboding, drudgery and sad.
Because what you put into your mind is what your brain sees. If you’ve seen any of my presentations, you’ll know, I describe our brains as having two systems, system one and system two.
Your Inner Google
System 1 (that’s its real name – so boring) I call your “inner Google”. Millions of bits of data are processed in your Inner Google every second. Nothing is really categorized, but it’s all in there. And then there is System 2, your own personal search bar, where you “type” in the words that fire into your other inner Google. What that does is it brings in what your brain chooses to see as relevant, sees as proof, sees as opportunity.
If you’re a geek like me, that process is called “Reticular Activation System”. Kinda like an algorithm, if you please.
If you’re putting the wrong words into your search bar like, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not successful enough. I’ll never get there”, your brain says, “Oh, okay. Okay. Here’s proof that you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re never going to get there.”
And so, that’s what you see in the world. The good news is you can change your algorithm by changing the words you type into your search bar.
Change your words
By changing the words in that you say to yourself, that you allow yourself to listen to (podcasts, other people), or that you observe (social media, news), you can significantly and instantly alter your world and your ability to cope with anything that happens to you. If you tell yourself “I’ve got this” or “I’ll figure it out” – your brain and your body will act accordingly. That reduces fear, which removes any excuses to not take action…and on you go!
But I want to show you the BEST times to focus on changing your words – times when it will have the biggest impact and give you the best results, fast.
There are two times in your day in which what you say to yourself is most impactful:
- As soon as you wake up
- Right before you go to sleep
Imagine if you wake up in the morning and you start off by saying, “Oh my God, I slept in. I’m never going to do this. I’m scared about my day,” etc.? You’re actually setting your brain’s attention to make sure that for the rest of the day, that’s all it pays attention to.
It’s no wonder people struggle through their day, get overwhelmed, or get super stressed, because they’ve literally told their brain to focus on those things right from the get-go.
Can you imagine what it feels like at the end of your day? You’ve had this really crappy day and all these really crappy thoughts and all of this really crappy proof. And at the end of the day, you’re in bed thinking, “Oh my God, I hate my life. I hate my life.” It’s a struggle and it’s stress.
Then you’re worried about what happens the next day and you go to sleep stressed. How do you think you’re going to wake up? STRESSED!
Four questions to ask yourself each day: Two to start the day; Two at the end
I’m going to give you two questions to start your day and two questions to end your day. And when you do that, when you ask yourself these four questions, you are going to turn your brain towards the things that are going to show proof of opportunities and positive outcomes.
These are opportunities for you to help people, opportunities to demonstrate the value that you have, the gifts that you bring because everyone has that. Let’s start with the two questions to ask at the beginning of your day.
Morning Question One: Who can I surprise with a text, a message, a phone call?
Gratitude journals are fantastic, but I end up kind of going ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto and it doesn’t really get me very far. What I like to do instead is think of at least one thing I can do to show my appreciation and I can make someone else’s life better because now they know what I feel about them. It’s like gratitude in action!
So many people that you love and you appreciate don’t really know how you feel. That one little thing you wake up in the morning and ask, “Who can I surprise today? Who can I just acknowledge? Who can I just say hey to that I haven’t said that to in a long time?”, makes a big difference to you AND to them.
Morning Question Two: What can I get excited about today?
This turns your brain towards something really, really positive. You can be excited about the fact that you get to work out. You can be excited that you are breathing today. But try to make it something that is connected to the contribution you make in the work that you do.
I get really excited about doing this. I have a ton of calls set up for today. I’m excited about those. I wake up thinking of all the different things that I can get really pumped up about. And what you tell your brain to focus on in those early, early minutes of the day is what your brain uses for the rest of the day as its guide.
Time to get your zzz’s
Now we get to the end of the day. This is where you want to calm your brain so you get really good sleep. If you get good sleep, there is less stress. You lose weight. You’re super healthy. You build your long-term memory. Wonderful things happen when you get good sleep. Here are the last two questions to ask yourself at the end of the day.
Night Question One: What did I learn from today?
What’s something I pulled out of today that I really thought, “Wow, I learned that about myself, about the world, about someone I know, about my team, about my business?” Everyone learns something in their day.
It’s important to focus on what you learned because there’s a lot of times where we just go through our day, we tend to focus on the more difficult parts of the day – the stressful ones, the drama from others, etc. And we just try to forget it. But, we don’t forget it. If you can turn those hard experiences into something that you’ve learned, you will no longer be triggered by that bad experience over and over and over again because you’ve gotten something good out of it. I call it my “shit to fertilizer” process.
The shit to fertilizer process
You take something, like a really crappy situation, and you actually plant it and grow something out of it. If you can take a bad experience in your day, maybe something that you didn’t do 100% like you wanted to, and you can say, “Well, what did I learn about that?”
When you take this approach, you will forever be able to grow going forward and not be re-triggered by the stuff in your past. The more you think about bad experiences in your past without learning from them, the more you anchor yourself and will eventually define yourself by those bad experiences.
Night Question Two: What did I appreciate about today?
Again, you’re ending your day looking for something that you saw, that you experienced, that you really, really appreciated. It could be that someone just smiled at you today and you really appreciated that. Someone said thanks and you’re treating that like the gift that it is. There’s always good in a day somewhere and the more you train your brain to look for it, and think about it, the more you’ll see just how often good things happen to you. Life is better when it’s good.
You’re putting your mind at rest and you’re absorbing those really positive messages right before your brain goes into its sleep state. And then it does all of its magic. When you wake up the next day, you’re already feeling energized. You’re already feeling like, “Hey, this is going to be another good day.”
And you start up all over again with the first two questions. You go through your day and end with those two questions. Done often enough, you are going to find that the entire trajectory of your day changes.
I have clients who actually print those questions off and they put them in a place where they see them daily. If there’s a dresser beside their bed, they tape it to the side of their dresser so they can see those questions first thing in the morning. You haven’t even gotten out of bed first thing in the morning and you see these questions.
There are lots of ways to remind yourself to ask these questions, whether it’s sticky notes, taping some paper with the questions to the ceiling so that you wake up and they’re right there! Do what works for you.
First thing in the morning or right before you go to bed, that is how you load the information into your inner Google. That massive, amazing place that stores all of the things you observe, whether you consciously or unconsciously notice them. And when you give it the right feedback, you type in the right words on your own personal search bar like, “Who can I appreciate?”, it fires that part of your brain that actually ends up growing the little gray mass in-between your ears. And a big brain is a healthy brain.
If you’ve been struggling like a lot of people have been struggling, I hope this has been helpful. The reason I talk about these kinds of topics is because I want there to be less of a struggle. It’s not that life won’t be hard. It’s just that you’ll be able to manage it. You’ll be able to cope with it. You’ll be able to get through it and nothing will take you down and nothing will slow you down.
To book a 30-minute call with me to talk this through and set your brain on the right path, click HERE.