13 Questions You Need to Stop Obsessing Over
Ruminating about all the horrible people who have hurt or offended you is like locking yourself in a cell with those very people, except that you're the only one who suffers. Instead, start listing people who benefit you in some way: the folks who build cars and houses and roads, deliver packages, fight fires, run schools and hospitals. Asking Who's done me right? can transform your world from a backstabbing battle into a feast of gratitude.
How can I cheat death?
We all know people whose life mission is warning others of the danger lurking in every edible substance. Salt will turn your liver into foie gras! Dairy and gluten are poison! Microwave your family's soup? Why not just shoot them instead? These folks aim to eat like our ancestors, who roamed pristine ecosystems and lived for about 30 years apiece. One of these health food fans recently gave me a pamphlet titled Eat Green or Die. A better phrase would be "eat green and die" because that's the best I'm ever gonna do. Actually, it's the best any of us can do. Instead of trying to avoid our inevitable demise, we might all take author Michael Singer's advice from The Untethered Soul: "For God's sake, do not be afraid of death. Try to learn what it's saying to you." Hint: It's saying that every day is precious, and nothing bad matters forever.
How can I get more?
If you're hungry and you eat a square meal, you'll feel better. But you won't feel ten times better if you eat ten square meals. Our culture instills in us an unfettered lust for more, more, more. Like a cancer, that lust doesn't know when to stop. Consider asking, How can I make do with less? You'll find yourself headed for the even-keeled moderation that leads to real happiness.
Why is this happening to me?
Actual tragedies aside, this question depends completely on your tone of voice. If you ask it in a whiny way (Why is this happening to me?), you'll grow steadily more irritating until loved ones drop you off at a no-kill shelter. But if you ask it thoughtfully, like Sherlock Holmes (Why is this happening to me?), you'll stop feeling like a victim and notice illuminating lessons in every adventure or misadventure.
Does ________ really love me?
Many of us can't believe we're loved, no matter how hard others try to prove it. By contrast, spiritual teacher Byron Katie says, "I'm very clear that the whole world loves me. I just don't expect them to realize it yet." Try assuming the same thing: Everyone's made of love, so at some level everyone must love you.
Am I good enough?
In The Last Samurai, Ken Watanabe plays a warrior-poet who spends his entire life looking for a perfect cherry blossom. As (spoiler alert) he dies, he has a realization that propels him into enlightenment: "They are all perfect." Every flower is perfectly itself. So is every cloud, cat, coffee cup and human being. You are absolutely perfect at being yourself, and nothing in creation can ever do better than that. No question.
Martha Beck's latest book is The Martha Beck Collection: Essays for Creating Your Right Life, Volume One (Martha Beck Inc.).