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Three Life-Changing Questions

By John Miller, Real CIO

Thought Leader MadeinPA

We get so caught up in our jobs battling technology issues, compliance issues, employee issues and executive partnering issues.  

We try to be good leaders and motivate our teams to be better people. We try to be good spouses, good parents, and good friends to those in our lives. The problem is that we are not being very good friends to ourselves.  So, tonight before your go to sleep, there are three questions I want you to ask yourself:

1. What did I learn today?

2. For what am I grateful?

3. For what am I proud?

Three simple questions that require just a couple of words each to answer.  They will also change how you lead and how you live.  Not the three questions you were expecting, were they?  

What did I learn today?

You can take the easy way out and list some platitude answer about something you read in a magazine or in a leadership book.  That is fine.  You answered the question.  But, what did you really learn?  Did you learn a new skill?  Did you learn a little more about dealing with an employee in crisis from a conversation you had?  Did you learn how amazing someone is at their job by sitting quietly and watching them interact with others?  Maybe a better question is “What did I learn about myself by things I observed today?”  But we can just address the question as it is asked.

For what am I grateful?

Again, you can take the easy way out and list the obvious: health, life, family, or friends.  Look at all the things you encountered today.  For which are you most grateful?  Was it the kind gesture you received from someone, or the opportunity you had to perform a kind gesture for someone else?  Was it a gift or a compliment you received?  Maybe it was the 15 minutes of quiet you had at some part of your day so you could sit and reflect.  What did you think about?  Did it make you want to carve out some time tomorrow to reflect again?  

For what am I proud?

This is the hardest of the three questions.  It is easy to be proud of others.  As leaders, we identify great accomplishments of those we lead and praise them.  It’s part of our job.  Sometimes the accomplishment is small, like they did not screw up today as badly as most days.  But what did YOU do that made you proud?  Not so easy to answer, is it?  Did you control your temper when things got out of control in a meeting?  Did you hold your tongue when your spouse said something that was not quite right and it would have been easy to make a correction?  Maybe you just stayed after work for a few minutes and finished a to-do when you really wanted to get out ahead of traffic and leave it for the day.  

Please write down your answers.  I log mine into my digital daily planner on my iPad for future reviews.  These three simple questions hold a much deeper meaning.  These three questions will impact your ability to lead in profound ways.  Here are the hidden benefits:

Basic Impact – These questions force you to reflect on your day in a new way.  You are now required to step back through your day to remember things that happened that you learned and things for which you are grateful and proud.  You will remember a lot more, since you are looking for the best answer, not just any answer.  In the process, you will remember things for which you are not so proud.  You will remember things that you were told but forgot.  

Major Impact – Knowing you will be asking yourself these questions will change how you go through your day.  I find that I actively look for things that I’ve learned, and things for which I am grateful and proud every day, all day.  I want to make sure I have good answers when I ask myself these questions.  I know what an incredible jerk I can be.  The last thing I want it to call myself in and yell at myself for not having a good answer.  It helps me to be more mindful during the day.

Life Changing Impact – Here is the part I did not see coming.  Not only do I look for answers to these questions, I proactively create answers to these questions.  I went from trying to remember events, to looking for events, to now creating events.  These questions took mindfulness to a whole new level.  As I go through my day, I generate learning moments so I have a great answer to “What did I learn?”  I invent opportunities for others to do things for me and for others so I will be grateful.  I also mindfully try to act, react, and behave in ways that make myself proud (not an easy task because we are all brutal on ourselves when it comes to pride).  All because I will be asking myself three questions at the end of each day.  

Your assignment:

1. Ask yourself these questions tonight.  Write down your answers in a journal or planner.  Type them into the Notes app on your phone if  you wish.  Be honest and introspective.  Pick the best answers. Do this every day. Make this a part of your end of the day routine.

2. On Saturday night, review your answers for the week and select the best answers.  Make it a “What great things did I learn and for which I am most grateful and proud this week?”  Do this every week.

3. After a few weeks, pay it forward by telling two people inside your inner circle about this practice.  Let them know how it impacted your life.  Give them the same assignment.  Have them pay it forward, too.


John Miller, Real-CIO Consulting

Real-CIO Consulting is a Professional Services organization founded to provide strategic Interim and Virtual CIO Consulting Services to companies that are between IT Leaders or cannot justify a full-time CIO.