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What's great about this?

The first question to ask when something bad happens.


“I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear.” - Oprah Winfrey


As soon as it happened, I recognized the feelings my body gives in response to stress: a tightening in my lungs, a tension in my shoulders, a narrowing of my eyes, and a grimace on my cheeks.

These physical cues automatically alerted me to ask one very specific question:

What's great about this?

This is often the most frustrating question you can ask yourself in the heat of the moment, and that's exactly what you need in a moment of stress: something to jolt you out of the standard responses of negativity.

Something I know about myself is that it's very easy for me to go into a negative spiral. So I prepare my mind against it happening.

When my hard drive crashed, and I lost days of productivity to fixing the problem, the very end of the process was a visit to the Apple Store, to have them install a new OS on my blank laptop.

I set an appointment. I showed up early. And I still waited around for an hour.

Every time I caught my emotions taking over, getting me irritated and aggravated, I would reframe my experience with this simple question:

What's great about this?

There was time to play chess, I decided. I never have time to play chess anymore. And here I was, surrounded by machines that would play chess with me. 

Our tendency, when faced with any dilemma, is to identify all the contours of the problem. If you've ever had a toothache, you know how this works: your tongue is constantly exploring the injured area, probing every angle, almost relishing the pain in an attempt to understand it completely.

Here's the thing: understanding every facet of your pain will not remove it from you.

Only by realigning your mindset with good and optimistic thoughts can you return to a place of balance and equilibrium. The single most effective method I have found to reverse a downward spiral of negative thoughts is by asking this one simple question:

What's great about this?

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I was introduced to this question in Tony Robbins' legendary work of personal development, Personal Power. He listed out five questions he asked himself whenever he found himself in a moment of frustration or difficulty.

  1. What's great about this?
  2. What's not perfect yet?
  3. What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
  4. What am I willing to no longer do in order to have things the way that I want to them?
  5. How can I do what's necessary to get the job done and enjoy the process? 

[This image is from my Pioneer Nation recap - a scrollable multimedia overview.]

The next time you are steaming mad, I want you to ask these five questions immediately - but the trick is, you have to write them down, and put them someplace where you can refer to them in the heat of the moment, someplace you don't even have to think about.

It might be on your phone, or in your task manager, or on an index card in your pocket.

Having these questions digitally accessible might be the best move for you, but keep in mind, our brain has a peculiar relationship to the ideas that we write down in our own handwriting. We mentally take ownership of the ideas in a different way than if we type them on a screen.

I wrote those questions down on an index card and stuffed it into my wallet, so that it would stick out and make notice of itself for a little while. Even then, I went through a few different moments of aggravation, without remembering to refer to the card.

The first time I did, it was like a cool bucket of water had been thrown on my raging emotions. In the heat of the moment, I fished out the index card, and took two minutes to ask myself: "What's great about this?"

By mentally realigning my perspective to look up instead of down, it prevented me from spiraling out into a state of mind that would have made me less productive, less enjoyable, and less of myself.

This is the question that returns me to myself when times are tough.

If you want to try this question yourself, then I challenge you to write it down (along with the other four questions) and put it in a place where you can easily grab it when you are in a moment of panic or frustration.

It will take you less than two minutes, if you do it right now.


CAELAN HUNTRESS


Father of 3. Blogger. Parkour athlete. Digital media producer. Former superhero.
Follow me on Twitter and Medium.
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