The One Question I Want To Ask A Lot In 2022

I can be a super planner. Planning makes me feel safe. It gives me comfort to know that I’m on track. However, the question arises:

Who framed this for you?

I realized that I’d been on a track. I don’t even know whose track it was. Likely the track composed of an amalgamation of every “should” I ever heard, coming from family, friends, television, media, teachers, and whoever.

This “should” dominated my actions (and still does, at times), including my planning and review processes. I can be a hyperplanner — the more I get worried, the more planning and rigidity ratchet up. But, that’s not how life works. The rain doesn’t care whether you have an umbrella, parka, bikini, or tuxedo. The rain comes when it does. Clouds don’t give a damn about your plans.

My planning tendencies involved fighting reality rather than working with it. I made adjustments over the years, but they still involved intense planning. One year, I learned about Parkinson’s Law, which states that a task will morph to fill whatever time is allotted to complete it. This helped me realize why resolutions are often not followed. I’d schedule them as one-off events, giving myself a one-year timeline to complete them, and would either forget about them or procrastinate.

I think this is why most resolutions fail. We arbitrarily lump them into one-year segments. To combat this, one year, I decided to focus on creating specific habits. This resulted in a set of daily practices, like journaling and affirmations.

But, I forgot the value of one-off events, like a planned vacation in June. Such events serve as anchors and can keep us hopeful and grounded during tough times.

I also realized I’d been suffering from what John Vervaeke calls “modal confusion.” Modal confusion happens when we mix up modes incorrectly. The most common and simple one I suffer from is conflating the ‘having’ mode with the ‘being’ mode.

This confusion gives me the idea that if I only ‘have’ enough, then I will ‘be’ enough. ‘Having’ refers to both objects and experiences. But, the question traps me. We can never ‘be’ enough by ‘having’. The ‘having’ mode and the ‘being’ mode are distinct.

When that hit me, I realized that no matter how much I packed my calendar, it wouldn’t be enough. Because being enough has nothing to do with what’s in my calendar.

But, this didn’t solve my issue. It taught me what to avoid. And whenever we a-void something, a void pops up. Something must fill the void.

And for me, if I don’t consciously choose something to fill the void, it will fill itself with old, subconscious programming.

The Antidote

​Luckily I stumbled upon a simple, elegant solution. All I need to do is ask myself one question, and ask it often:

“What do I want?”

I can ask this when I’m making small decisions, like what to pick off a restaurant menu. I can ask it while arguing with Expedia about fraudulent charges or in larger situations like wondering where to live.

So simple!

My intention is to use this question to be the person I want to be. And in 2022, I want to be a man at peace with himself.

The best way I know to do that is to shine the light of my attention inward.

After asking this question, I use a few more that help me a ton:

  • What steps have I taken to get what I want?
  • Am I happy with the outcome? If yes, woohoo, cue the gratitude!
  • If not, would I like to make an adjustment?

Then, rinse and repeat as much as needed.

Value judgments do not bring me increased peace in this setting. For example, asking, “Did you do a good job?” feels like an innocuous question that old me would’ve asked often.

But, it’s a complete non-sequitur. First, “good job” is generally unmeasurable. Doing a “good job” could mean that I got the outcome I wanted, in which case asking, “Am I happy with the outcome?” is still the better question. If I did a good job, and still didn’t get the outcome I wanted, an adjustment is needed anyways. If I tell myself that I did a “bad job”, shame quickly drops by for an unwanted visit.

For me, adding value judgments to my own behavior is like saying, “Hey Shame! Come on down! We’ve got front row seats on the judge train for you, toot toot!” These judgements often result in not only feeling bad about myself but also in not getting what I want, a real double whammy.

NOTE OF CAUTION: As I began this practice of questioning, I worried. If I remove value judgements, won’t I devolve into a sociopathic nihilist? No! Because (duh!) I still have a set of values constantly running in the background as I ask myself, “What do I want?” So fear not, being selfish in this way won’t turn you into the devil.

Further, this set of questions increases my freedom tremendously.

I wasted gobs of time and energy critiquing the quality of my effort. Most of this critiquing is completely useless. It’s only useful if it results in me making a helpful adjustment next time. So, I completely skip it and simply ask if I’d like to make an adjustment. Using a binary instead of a spectrum is better here. If my effort yields the outcome I want, great. If not, try something else.

All this new energy can be spent brainstorming ways to get what I want, and that’s how I intend to spend my 2022.

What’s your primary intention this year?


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