Every year I go through an exercise by Leonardo da Vinci called “The 100 Questions. See Brian Johnson’s summary of this process here. The idea is that once you find 100 questions you’re curious about, you pick the 10 that are the most inspiring to you and you rank them.
Every year looking back, I realize that I had in some way followed those questions, sought answers to them, or otherwise explored the themes of those questions. Even though I had only consciously looked at those questions less than 10 times throughout the entire year.
This year I would like to not only look at those questions more often, but want to meditate on them, see what my answers are to those questions, and find ways to express my understandings of those questions in my life. If I was personally asked these questions … how would I respond? That’s what I want to explore.
My Top 10 Questions of 2019
When I look at my questions, particularly the Top 10, they seem to be themed around Authentic Self Expression + Experiential Growth + Insularity & Courage + Conscientiousness. Below are my Top 10 Questions for 2019 and what my immediate answers are to those questions based on today’s experience:
1.) What does my heart and soul want me to experience? (and am I connecting to myself and being a space?)
The experience my heart and soul wants me to have is going to evolve over time, simply because I cannot see or understand what the “endgame” of the soul is beyond experiencing experience in real-time.
This is also a prompt for me to make a habit of finding myself and being a space for myself. For “that” state. Crazy, amazing, heart-centered things happen when I’m in “that” state, “that” space, “that” feeling.
Today, I think what my heart and soul is inviting me to experience is to find individualized strength; to develop the courage and strength on my own to be my own individual among others, to have my own desires and ambitions, my own beliefs, my own “way of doing things,” and to stick to who I am deep down rather than being swayed this way and that.
In a tangible manner, this manifests as an invitation to experience development and mastery of dance, business, dance teaching and coaching, authentic self-expression (through what I wear and how I communicate), connection with others, and more.
In other words: the heart and soul is inviting me to see the greatness within, as all people have, and to no longer listen to the old story I’ve been told – and continue to tell myself. I do not need to listen to that story; every day is an invitation to start a new story or to read from the book the soul is writing. And that story is so much more interesting than the disempowering stories I (and many of us) keep telling myself and sharing with others.
My heart and soul’s invitation for me to experience … is an invitation to greatness.
2.) How can I do this in exponentially LESS time? (Or: If I only had 1 week to get this done, what would I have to do? Thanks, Jacob Sokol.)
This question rivaled for first; it’s an immensely powerful question. When we think of big, grand ambitions and projects, it can be overwhelming to think about everything we have to do.
But what happens if we were told we only had a week to do that thing? We would operate at a much different level. MUCH different. Or if that intensity isn’t enough, how about this one:
If you only had a week to get it done, or you/someone you loved would get shot, what would you have to do to get it done?
When I started the Fort Wayne Westies., it took me 6 months to get it from “I wonder what it would take to …” to the first hosted event. Most of those months weren’t spent actually developing the club: most of the work took place in a matter of weeks. If I had really sat down and did nothing else but work on the development and making decisions and taking action, I would have probably been able to do it all in 1-2 weeks.
This question makes me really face my current invitations to greatness: learning and mastering West Coast Swing, being a dance coach, and leading by example all that I believe in.
If I were to take “being a dance coach,” looked at everything I had to do… and was then faced with only having a single week to get everything DONE. Completely done or done ENOUGH. Not just a half-assed effort, but DONE. Which means …
(a) I would have to look at what the MOST IMPORTANT STEPS are, the CORE ACTIONS needed to take.
There is a L O T to being a dance coach or a teacher/instructor of anything. The learning never stops. There’s always something to get better at. If I keep looking at those elements (which I’m also excited for), instead of what I need to do today, I’ll never start. Right now, the MOST IMPORTANT STEPS or CORE ACTIONS (not all the fancy fluff) are:
→ Decide or update existing offers.
→ Have a way for people to contact or commit to working with me.
→ Create and publish a post to be shared on Facebook or with people who might be interested in learning to dance.
→ Follow up with people if interested.
Once I get THAT into motion, then I can start to fancify things. Landing pages. Emails. Business cards. Adding more heart-stuff into what I am doing. Further developing a guide for students.
All of those are still important, but they’re not THE most important at the moment. And chances are, once I start “putting stuff out there,” it’s going to prompt me to work on all the other things.
Not doing it backwards.
(b) I would have to stop wasting my time.
No time spent on Facebook and Youtube, or playing games, or engaging in irrelevant conversations. There’s a time and place for all of that … but not this week. This week I have to get this done or I’ll get shot. Come back later, I’m busy.
(Man … just writing that in a joking manner was both really empowering and gave me that sweaty, awkward embarrassed feeling – as if I was ashamed to say that. I realize I do NOT do that enough. “I can’t, I’m busy, I have something I need to get done.” I have NOT prioritized things in my life enough that need to be prioritized. … But I will from here on out, do my best to do so.)
(c) I would have to stop telling myself disempowering, limiting stories and improve my self-talk.
I know that straight out of the gate, I won’t be perfect, I won’t do it as well as others. Will I do well? Probably. Imperfect means progress and I can improve and adapt from imperfect. I can’t do shit from standing still.
I know that I will quite possibly face quiet or verbal criticism in how I teach, that I’m not as experienced, that I might do something wrong … but I have to also allow myself to BE IN THAT than to immediately accept those judgements and STOP TRYING.
Sometimes I think it would be easier to just hear someone actually criticize and judge me … because I would actually be able to confront and face it as a reality, not a “fearful figment of my imagination that wants me to think I’m too weak to handle it.” (i.e., exposure therapy.)
3.) What is the next step?
Keep writing. Hit publish.
Stop looking ahead so far. What has revealed itself to you as a necessary thing to do, even if it’s not the “grand thing at the end of the tunnel,” has some kind of importance to you. Often times it’s felt and may not make the most sense. Sometimes it will. The value is in recognizing what the next step is, right now, and doing it no matter how small or potentially unrelated.
Don’t over-complicate it. Aim for that North Star, but look down at your damn feet. That’s the only thing going to get you closer to the star.
4.) Am I ASKING, INITIATING, and/or OFFERING?
In light of becoming a dance coach and “following the invitation to greatness,” I will need to get better about asking, initiating and offering.
Asking: for a sale, for help, for something I want, a question I’m curious about, to hang out.
Initiating: meetups, coffee dates, a hug, an introduction, an activity, a conversation.
Offering: what I have to sell, a space for you to be you, my skills, an opportunity, my time.
These are all aspects of putting my desire/intention out there with the possibility of a NO (or a YES) to come back. Learning to be okay with being seen and with nobody showing interest, or my idea getting shot down. And being completely okay with whatever happens or doesn’t happen.
It’s crucial to embrace that I am capable and worthy of asking for things, regardless of whether or not someone may or may not accept what I have to offer or ask.
My dad always told me, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”
I’ve been living that way for far too long – in never asking; and thus, life has given me the “life of no.”
5.) Am I approaching situations with an authentic and courageous presence?
This is particularly prevalent in social situations as I’m paying more attention and becoming more aware of my default behavior when interacting with people. Typically when I’m with someone and they ask certain questions or say certain things, I may not always respond in a fully authentic manner. It’s not that I tried to be dishonest, it was almost always out of a habitual pattern born out of the fear of not being accepted for what I had to say. It was as if I didn’t feel it was “okay” to be me, okay to have a different opinion, okay to be different.
I am learning that that’s not the case, and more importantly – that I’m fine when I am “different” or when I go against what you or someone may say. It is simply taking some time for my nervous system to catch up.
The intent with this question is to prime myself to become more aware of my default behaviors and to approach situations, social or otherwise, with a raw honesty with who I am and the courage to say or do what is in my heart.
That could mean saying “I’m not feeling that great” when someone asks how I am.
It could be wandering down the womens’ aisle in a clothing store and trying on a shirt, a pair of shoes, or pants with courage and a sense that “this is normal for me,” instead of freaking out and trying to pretend I wasn’t trying it on when someone comes around the corner.
It could be being upfront when I approach someone I want to meet, “I felt compelled to get to know you, but I’m not really sure what to say.”
It could be … whatever it means, in that moment, to be authentic – and to have the courage to be, do, or say what that is.
6.) What can I simplify?
This is one of the most calming questions out of the list for me. It’s not grandiose question, but the impact can be grand. This question is intentionally open-ended and not specifically tied to the act of “minimizing” in my life.
Simplification CAN be of my possessions but it can also be in how I am approaching life. My daily practices. How I connect with people. The ambitions and “callings” I have.
Today, I can simplify my papers and notes, so that I’m not overwhelmed with how many I have and feel obligated to go back to.
I can simplify my priorities so that I go from having 257 kind-of-important + super important things to … just a couple super-important things in my day.
I can simplify my expectations of myself. Morning and evening routines don’t need to be a huge checklist. I don’t need to complete all 5 things on my Agenda 5 list; I can simply do the 1-2 that are most important in moving my life forward.
I can simplify what it means to be self-connected and present. Sometimes that may mean using a guided meditation but it can also mean simply sitting in my chair, closing my eyes, and breathing.
(In a nutshell, it’s an invitation to practice K.I.S.S. — Keep It Simple, Stupid.)
7.) What is LIGHT or HEAVY in my life?
One of my favorite concepts from Kyle Cease, understanding what is LIGHT and HEAVY makes decision making, leaping, and letting-go incredibly easy.
LIGHT: West Coast Swing. Having my own room/apartment and getting to organize it how I want. Writing this post. Spending more time self-connected and in solo-pursuits + solo personal development. Doing videos and editing. Initiating/leading something for my growth or to create/expand a vision.
HEAVY: Spending a long time talking with people (in person or online) when in my heart I feel called towards doing something else (cleaning my room, journaling, meditating, solitude, self connection, vibing out to music). Spending excessive, repetitive time on Facebook, Youtube, and playing games when I have other priorities and heart callings. Trying to get validation from the outside for who I am, what I am trying to do, what I believe in, or have garnered inspiration from.
8.) How can I better engage with people and life?
Although I have gotten better at talking and articulating my thoughts, I still have a while to go for it to feel fluid and organic. Introducing myself and initiating connections does not come easy yet. This question prompts me to look at how I can better engage with people and life, and to find the courage to take initiative even when I’m not “ready.”
Looking people in the eyes, standing up straight with good posture, slowing my speech down to better articulate, speaking louder, asking questions, actually getting up and walking across the room to talk to someone, offering compliments.
And in life – spending more time on things that expand my experience (meditation, getting out of my comfort zone, etc.), connecting with heart-centered people, challenging my fears, digging in and “doing the inner work,” doing the nitty-gritty of my heart callings, etc.
9.) How will I get out of my comfort zone and grow?
Comfort zone challenges and rejection therapy have long been in the back of my mind, but I’ve yet to really do any of them. This question doesn’t necessarily push me towards doing those, unless it’s specifically tied to some kind of way I want to grow.
Growth and getting out of comfort zones can happen by intentionally performing tasks that are outside of your comfort zone OR in doing things that you want to “accomplish” that happen to be outside of your comfort zone. That’s how I got over my fear of public speaking: I didn’t necessarily set out to overcome that fear, but by creating a WCS club, it forced me to face that fear.
Today, getting out of my comfort zone is fully embracing that I want to be a better dancer and want to be a dance coach – and get paid for it. I have to be okay with being outside of my comfort zone and offering my services to people, regardless of what they (or my fears) say about it.
Getting out of my comfort zone is wearing all the “weird” things I have, or going to the store and trying them on, or buying them — and not hiding from it, but instead smiling and nodding, “Yes, this is for me” not out of a desire to be “unique” but out of authenticity and courage.
Getting out of my comfort zone is returning to sharing things online, writing blog posts like these, posting my albums from my adventures (dance or otherwise).
Getting out of my comfort zone is introducing myself to people and trying to get to know them. Or asking friends if they want to hang out. Or asking for help on something I need.
10.) Am I ascending, descending, or stagnant?
There’s a symbol I created recently to help me envision this question. It’s essentially two triangles side by side where one is flipped upside down. One triangle points up, one down, and with a single point in the middle.
It represents that in every moment I am ascending (towards my highest self, or heaven), descending (towards hell, destruction, a life of misery), or stagnant (albeit, stagnancy often leads to descension but at a slower rate).
These manifest in different ways. For example, ascension could be meditation, writing, getting out of my comfort zone, connecting with growth oriented people, traveling, dancing, challenging myself.
Descension is a chosen (or habitual) activity that weakens me or my experience: mindless Facebook scrolling, gaming when I have other priorities, fueling an old story, excessively socializing with limited mindset people, etc.
Stagnancy is a slow-burning descension, but isn’t always negative. It’s maintenance tasks, keeping things afloat; not quite burning things down, but not growing them either. It’s keeping up with client projects that don’t necessarily challenge me or help me grow, it’s idle chit-chat with friends, it’s … etc. Not bad, not good. Not destructive, not growth.
These are my top 10 questions for 2019.
Each year I’ve done this exercise, I’ve been able to look back and see how most of the year revolved around those questions. I’m excited to see how I will evolve this year through these questions.
What questions are you constantly asking yourself?
What wisdom can you glean from YOURSELF in trying to answer them?
// Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash