Regardless of your life stage, your best future depends on good understanding of your current situation and making the next right steps. While this sounds obvious, the truth is most of us don’t take time to reflect on our current state—we live a largely unexamined life. As a result, we often make choices based on what we want in the moment: gain pleasure and avoid pain (consider Kohlberg’s research on moral development). With no real commitment to the future we say we want or insight into what we need to do in order to attain it, we make decision based on feelings in the “now.” From diets to career decision, we make bad decisions: “Of course I want to fit into clothes from three years ago, but Sally’s pound cake is so good;” “My boss doesn’t even have a clue about all I do for her; I need to find another job where I’m appreciated.”
Put another way using Benjamin Franklin’s words, “If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail.” Good planning takes more than good intentions: worthy planning requires knowledge of oneself and the challenges that are before you. In effort to better understand what is true in regards to these questions, we use four simple questions with our clients: What’s right; What’s wrong; What’s missing; What’s Confusing? While these questions may seem overly simplistic, it always takes more time and effort than expected to answer them thoroughly.
- What’s right? We start with this question because it’s an easy starting point. The idea behind this question is we want to know what’s going well so we can plan how to enhance and capitalize on it.
- What’s wrong? This too is a pretty easy one to answer. We’ve all heard some form of the expression “to know and not to do is to not really know.” If we recognize something is holding us back but we aren’t addressing the issue, it’s likely we don’t understand the toll it’s having on us. What can we do to minimize or correct what’s holding you back?
- What’s missing? The root of this question is sometimes we know we need something but we haven’t prioritized it. For example: “It’s not that things are right or wrong with the people closest to me, it’s that I don’t have anyone who really is close to me.” How are we going to fill the voids you’re experiencing in all areas of your life (personal, professional, and social)?
- What’s confusing? This is always the most difficult one. Most people ignore the things they don’t understand or refuse to acknowledge the uncertainties they have, and as a result, it takes a lot of effort to reflect on this question: “My team at work is hitting the goals we need and I like what I do, but I hate my job right now.” What needs to be done is we need to clarify these thoughts and feelings so we can create a plan for next steps.
As with all of the tools we offer on our blog, these four questions alone will not transform your personal, social, or professional life, but they will help you understand what’s next for your best future.