The One Question You Need to Change Your Life
Okay, this might be the most clickbait-y title I’ve ever written – but, I found it to be true. You only need one question to change your life (if it is the right question).
It is human nature to always strive to be better, do inner work, exercise more, eat healthier, become a more loving parent, practice creativity,… But so many people get stuck without ever making the changes to actually feel an improvement.
Is it fun to keep complaining about the same things over and over again? No. So let’s change it.
The one question you need is:
Is this who I want to be?
Or, phrased a little differently, does this serve the person I want to become?
“This” is whatever you find yourself doing at that very moment.
I think we all have a pretty clear idea of how we want to show up in life. Maybe we want to excel in kindness towards others, in our athletic efforts, or in artistic endeavors. However, the reality is often quite far from that ideal picture in our heads.
The secret is to start taking yourself seriously and questioning your own behavior. Is it truly in alignment with who you want to be?
For me, that looked a lot like beating laziness, for example. When a towel would fall to the ground or the toilet paper was all gone, would I just leave it like that?
I realized I didn’t want to be that person, noticing something that can be fixed but waiting for someone else to come around and do it (because I, too, would be quite annoyed if someone else acted like this).
Every time I was confronted with my laziness, I started asking myself this one question:
Is this who I want to be?
And so I started picking up the towel, refilling the toilet paper, wiping away that coffee stain, even if it was not mine – acts that only took me a few seconds but left me feeling like a better person than if I had ignored it.
It really can be as easy as repeatedly (and sincerely) asking yourself one simple question.
Requirements to change your life
Ok, as easy as this one-question-is-all-you-need-theory sounds, there’s a catch. There are at least three prerequisites you need to implement before this can work.
#1 Take yourself seriously
You can’t change if somewhere deep down you don’t believe you’re worthy of being a better version of yourself. You need to take yourself seriously.
Don’t treat your dreams as if they were unimportant, not good enough, not inspired enough.
You need to do the opposite: Believe in your dreams and yourself and see your life as something that is under your control.
People have achieved crazy things – simply because they believed they could.
Having faith in yourself and taking yourself seriously enough to actually follow through is the foundation for all positive changes you’ll ever make in life.
Because otherwise, your response to that one question won’t inspire change, only apathy and shame.
You may say ‘no this is not who I want to be but nothing will ever change’. You may say you don’t care while actually, you do.
With every day you’re not taking yourself seriously, you’ll keep making changes, yes, but ones that sabotage your life and who you actually want to be.
You are deserving of love and self-respect. Start acting like it.
#2 Take responsibility
You need to realize it’s no one else’s responsibility to make your life any better than it is now. Your life – and how you feel about it – is up to you.
If there are things you want to transform in your life, don’t wait for external motivation or someone else to get it done for you.
Taking responsibility requires stepping out of victim mentality.
So when you find yourself thinking ‘why is my life so miserable?’, don’t pity yourself, thinking you have no agency over how your life looks. You are not a victim to your circumstances.
If you’re at a low point in life, treat yourself with compassion, but don’t stay there forever – start taking action.
Acting like the person you want to be is immensely satisfying. It boosts our confidence, gives us a sense of agency and control and energizes us.
Taking responsibility makes us believe in the better parts of ourselves and that’s all we need.
#3 Practice awareness
‘Is this who I want to be?’ is a question that works best when you catch yourself in the very moment you’re doing something that is not in alignment with your higher self.
The better you become at observing yourself, your habits and patterns, the easier it becomes to change it.
You can’t change what you’re not aware of
So if your goal is to become more athletic, think of which habits an athletic person would have, even outside of the gym.
Would they take the elevator and skip the stairs? Probably not. Would they pick watching TV as their main hobby? Who knows, but the more likely answer is that movement infuses all aspects of their life.
Witness how you move through the day and reality-check if you are acting in alignment with who you want to be.
One simple question that just needs to pop up in your mind: ‘Is this who I want to be?’ – and if you’re taking yourself seriously and you’re ready to take responsibility, the honest answer might be ‘no’.
And every ‘no’ opens up another door, an alternative behavior, which then allows you to change your ways little by little. One step at a time.
Why this works
Underlying that simple question – is this who I want to be – are a few quite effective principles.
Each time you ask, you voluntarily undergo a little reality check. It is an opportunity to check how aligned your thoughts, feelings and actions are with your aspired state.
And second, it also allows you to put yourself into the position of your future self.
When you have a clear image of your future self, you can start showing up as that person.
You may be surprised how much knowledge about your future self you already hold. What would that person do? What advice would your future self give to you now?
Don’t be shy to ask your future self questions. Whatever it is you’re trying to achieve, ask your future self how it got there.
The answers can help you to see life from a wiser perspective – why not embody your future self already now?
When regularly asking ‘is this who I want to be’ and responding in all honesty, you will hold yourself to a higher standard than before. No more excuses. Just pure willingness to grow, however unpleasant the answer may momentarily be.
And this is when the best parts of you start showing up.
How fast can you change your life?
Wanting to change is human nature, but wanting to do it as quickly and easily as possible seems to be our favorite idea of how this is supposed to work.
So how long does it actually take to change your life? The honest answer lies somewhere between a second and a lifetime.
It only takes one second to decide that you truly want to quit drinking – yet it takes a lifetime to follow through.
It might only take a couple of weeks (scientists say about 66 days) to build a new habit – but if you want to be the person who does yoga every day, you’ll actually have to keep going with it.
Taking yourself seriously enough to get important life changes going can be instantaneous.
The decision to change your life only takes a second.
Yet, the work to keep up that mindset and to keep implementing the consequences of that decision requires (possibly) a lifetime – and a lot of consistency.
Realistically, it takes years to truly change your life – and by that, I mean getting to a point where your new habits and ways of being are so deeply ingrained into your DNA that you don’t even need to think about it anymore.
That’s when you don’t need to ask yourself ‘Is this who I want to be?’ anymore because you already are that person.
But trust me, by then for sure you will have uncovered new areas of life where you’ll want to make some changes. And you may want to keep asking, keep questioning, keep growing.
The most important thing is believing you can – and then simply staying consistent.
Our little lives are an ongoing work in progress, and if we stop beating ourselves up about it, that’s actually quite a beautiful thing.
Your life is inevitably changing. But you can start taking control over those changes. Those who win at life are those who are in it for the long run. Those who don’t expect their lives to magically change for the better without putting in the work.
Life and learn, that’s all there is.
Oh, and one last tip: Reality-check your goals, too. There’s no point in forcing yourself out of bed at 5am each morning when your natural rhythm is telling you something else. There’s no need to go on diet after diet if this kind of eating is not what you want to implement in your life long-term.
Too many of us chase dreams that are not ours. Chase the ones that are yours, not the dreams society tells you to have.
If you listen very carefully into the depths of your own being, you already know what to do.