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10 Questions That Will Always Make You Better

A guest post from Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com.

There are ten questions that will always make you a better blogger—even if you can’t always answer them.

It’s the asking, the awareness, and the empowering context established through asking, that sets a higher bar for your writing, your business and your life.

1. Are you willing to actually strive for that higher standard, or not?

That’s the first of the ten questions that can change your life.

At the heart of each of these questions is a specific understanding that lights them on fire within your life. It is the recognition that there is a difference between a mission and a goal.

Everybody wants to be happy. In some way, everybody wants to be rich and successful, though the definitions of the word “success” vary widely. We all want to be respected, liked, loved and appreciated, both for who we are and for what we’ve accomplished.

These are missions. They’re over-arching and more vague than goals.

This may sound like rhetoric—mission and goal are frequently, easily, and naively interchanged—but it’s no accident that the highly successful understand the difference. They know that the difference isn’t rhetorical, nor subtle.

Indeed, this understanding is the very thing that apprentices, rookies, dreamers, and anonymous wanderers seek to discover and then, when it’s right there in their faces, adopt as a way of being.

A mission is a destination. A goal is a milepost on the journey.

One without the other, however, can represent yet another definition of insanity. That situation will bring you face to face with a more infamous definition: expecting different results while doing the same old things, over and over.

Here are nine more facets of that understanding. Nine questions that, if you ask them of yourself, will always make you a better blogger.

What is your mission?

What is your purpose? Your vision for your life? Your highest dream? Your hierarchy of dreams?

What is your work—indeed, your life—all about?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with living in the now, to seek comfort and pleasure and reward, to think no further than tomorrow. More people live this way than don’t.

It’s just that this approach won’t lead you anywhere. You’ll be treading water, or at least allowing it to carry you along, powerless against it, within its tides and currents.

You have no engine, no sail, no compass, and no distant shore. You aren’t swimming, you’re treading water. The water may be warm and comfortable, but over time, such water becomes stagnant.

Understand that the happiness this seems to deliver is something you choose. But there are other levels of happiness and satisfaction in life.

You need a mission to make those choices accessible. The “goal” of going on a nice vacation next year … is just that: a goal.

A mission is much more than that.

What are your strategic goals?

Getting rich is a mission, not a goal. Some get to skip the goal-setting by virtue of inheriting their wealth, but even lottery winners set a goal to buy a ticket on a given day. The result is a consequence of intention, rather than genes.

For the rest of us, the road to riches is riddled with mileposts, ruts, puddles, and forks. Each of them defines a strategic opportunity to move forward.

What do I mean by strategic? I mean that the choices we make when we encounter those mileposts—which, when put in our rear-view mirror become milestones—are made in the context of the bigger picture. In the context of the mission.

Getting a new job may feel like a mission, but it’s actually just a goal. An important one. But it’s not a mission until it defines who you are, and where you intend to end up, and delivers a strong motivation to get there.

Ask anyone who has reached significant heights in their life, or have completed a mission. They’ll talk for days about the journey and the milestones that got them there.

Then again, finding such a person may be hard, because those individuals are never really done.

What is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?

You may think that your mission is to become part of a specific crowd of achievers, to join a certain club or become known in an esteemed way.

Often you must work your way through a series of lower-level crowds, and advance through a series of minor leagues, to get there. And the only way to rise above the crowd—any crowd—is to differentiate yourself.

Back in school that happened when somebody acted out, punched someone, or got busted. They stood apart, then they went to the back of the line.

In life, in quest of a worthy mission, your USP needs to add and deliver positive value: to stand out with a better, bigger idea, more consistent performance and some indefinable, almost magical X-factor that makes you glow in the dark.

How are you being perceived?

Goals never exist in a vacuum. Nor does the effort we put into reaching our goals. Everything we do in life propels energy into the universe. Others see it, feel it, interpret it and respond to it.

You are in complete command of the energy you put forth. Use your head, work smart, get out of the way of your own backstory (which may be full of resentment, fear, and ignorance), and make sure the energy you are putting out there is proactively and extraordinarily positive in nature.

You have little to no control over the way you’re being perceived. You’re the raw material from which others form their perceptions.

What are you contributing?

You know all of those people who are running ads for free iPads, laptops, and mobile phones if you “opt-in” to only two of the long list of special offers they’re putting in front of you?

Guess what? They’re frauds. They contribute nothing. Their mission is unworthy and doomed.

What are you contributing? What are you, as a blogger, giving away? How are you impacting the thinking of others? What value are you providing, either for free or for a fair price?

Value is the great justifier of price. Always strive to over-deliver it.

Is it just about the money? Or at the end of day, even if you die poor, will you be able to look in the mirror and say, “At least I touched a few lives”?

This is your yardstick—your metric of ultimate success. All the money and friends and admirers you’ll make along the way … those are by-products. Those may be worthwhile goals, but they shouldn’t be the mission.

Your highest mission should be to make a difference. To contribute.

Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?

Despite this love-fest of new-agey, love-thyself wisdom, the fact remains that it’s a competitive world out there.  And there are many potholes and roadblocks to negotiate.

Forward motion always requires the application of energy. In an airplane, when the engines die, the flight goes down, one way or the other. In a relationship, auto-pilot almost always results in a downward spiraling course.

In business, if you aren’t growing, you’re dying. Because all around you the world is changing. Better ideas, more capital, younger bucks … they’re everywhere.

Stay crisp and nimble. Focus on your mission and the goals that empower it. You are the CEO of your dream; don’t be afraid to fire under-performers and take risks on high-potential opportunities.

High achievers know no fear. Nor are they foolish in the face of risk. They weigh, they prepare, and then they choose. Once they’ve chosen, they allow nothing to stop them.

What are you getting out of this?

Here’s another little secret of the fabulously successful: they aren’t waiting to achieve their goal to acknowledge they’re having a good time. Almost always, at the end of the journey, they’ll tell you the best part was getting there.

It’s not just because of the money. More likely, it’s because of the sense of fulfillment and awareness the lives they’ve affected in a positive manner. Sure, there will have been dark moments, but business ins’t a zero-sum game. Just like life.

There will also be moments of pure elation. Just like life.

Getting the drift?  Your mission is your life.

Pay attention to your misery and pain. Pay just as much attention to that occasional inner glow.  Assign meaning, and have the courage and insight to allow that light to guide you.

Are you getting better?

Here’s that forward motion thing again. Competition is nipping at your heels. Age is unrelenting. What is past is prologue.

But prologue to what?

You get to answer this question. And when you do, you’ll find that the most exciting opportunities, the gut-check of stepping into your fear, always challenges you to be better.

If you can’t find that challenge, create one. Improvement and growth is often forced upon us, but just as often it’s self-chosen.

Are you willing to do the hard things?

The road is strewn with the gravestones of the well-intentioned. Time and degree of difficulty thin the crowd along the way. Survival is complicated. Nothing worth achieving is ever easy.

By definition, there will be moments when you feel unable to go on, to overcome, or to choose what you know in your heart must be chosen.

A critical sub-set of this question contains two elements: persistence and discipline. Both are essential. Both will determine your outcome. And both are choices.

There’s a song by Martina McBride called “Do It Anyway.”  You can listen to it here.

Does it describe you? This is one of the most important questions you will ever address in your life, because the answer will define your future.

Other questions quickly arise from these prompts.

…and that’s the point. It may seem that the journey is over and the mission’s accomplished once you wrap your head around these questions. But a funny thing will happen on the way to your dream. The mission will evolve. It will grow and embellish itself with your skills and earned wisdom. And new missions, new purposes and hopes, is what keeps you young and thriving.

Here’s another thing that highly successful folks get: they’re never done.

They want to slide in sideways on the day of their wake. They know that the saddest funeral of all is the one at which everyone in attendance (who is upright) realizes this: he wasn’t done. She had so much more to do.

Sad, but not tragic. Sad, but something to celebrate and admire. This is what you want. You want your friends and loved ones to celebrate your life and grieve that which was underway and left undone. This represents the evolution of the cliché, “he died doing what he loved.”

Because that person was fully alive, in movement, engaged, aware and continuing to grow and experience. And I promise you, whether they used these words or not, that person was asking themselves these ten questions until the day the music stopped.

Larry Brooks writes at Storyfix.com, where his new ebook, “Get Your Bad Self Published” is now available.  His book on storytelling, “Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing,” comes out from Writers Digest Books in early 2011.

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Comments

  1. Ngozi Nwoke says:

    Hi Larry,
    Great post!

    These questions surely will make one better. I like #2, it certainly affects the others one way or the other.

    Knowing your mission in life makes all the difference. it will energize and motivate you to do whatever it will take to fulfill your mission.

    Having a mission and pursuing it will help you not to quit when the challenges around you are overwhelming. Your desire to contribute value to other lives will keep you going.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for an interesting article which has set me thinking about where I am going. Since drifting into blogging at the start of this year I have had a lot of fun, made some fantastic connections and learned some hard lessons.

    The mission and goals have always been there at the back of my mind but in a fairly hazy and disorganised way. So the challenge now is to crystallise those thoughts so that I have clear vision of where I want to be and how I am going to get there.

    Having said that it’s really vital not to forget about the having fun and connecting part, it’s all pointless without that.

    Thanks

    Tony

  3. Thank you so much for this. It’s remarkable and have really made me think. ‘My unique selling point’ and ‘what I’m contributing’ really caught my eye. This is very well-written (and as a career writer, I never say that without meaning it) and it’s got a lot of meaning too.

  4. abdille says:

    Thank you so much for this how i can to buy your book?
    via paypal !

  5. I think it’s not only a question if you’re willing to strive for that higher goal….it’s that you’ve proactively given yourself permission TO strive (and face potential failure along the way).

    One can always *say* they want to strive/excel/etc., but that really does require pushing past current comfort boundaries. Getting thru *those* – now that’s the linchpin on which future striving stands.

  6. While the question are really right but the best answers to these questions are what reallly matters. The answers are what will give you the best results that you have wanted on many occassions but many in this have failed only if they could handle will they be better.

  7. AJ says:

    This is a great article that illustrates the simple things you can do to make improvements. I would encourage everyone to really think about each question and what it really means.

    Don’t take the easy way out and think it doesn’t apply to you because your not selling anything. We ALL are selling something – ourselves.

    As you go through the questions, if you are not getting the answers you would like, what can you do so you will?

    This is definitely a bookmarked and linked to post.

  8. Mission and Vision is very important for every one. It defines your goals and target. Without mission you can’t achieve your goals.
    Nice article.

  9. Lisa says:

    Okay, this sounds very strange, I know, however, the other day there was a post about “Today is Your Funeral” by Glenn Allsopp from PluginID and before I read that dreadful but reality check post, I was actually thinking about it the day prior. Now today I receive my RSS from Darren and same thing, I was just thinking about my own success, (which is not my definition of it), and today I’m reading that very same thing. Whoa is what I say! Excellent post, I guess someone is trying to tell me something! :)

  10. Barbara says:

    I love this post! You’ve touched a nerve on many levels. I began blogging as a way to work through some issues I had with turning 60. I always welcome birthdays, because what would be the alternative? But what I’ve learned through this blogging journey is that we all have a story to tell, and our story can help someone else. The greatest reward I’ve gotten from my blog is someone thanking me for telling my story, warts and all, and how it has helped them work through issues they’d buried.
    We have to live our truth. I believe you have to accept the past before you can move forward. It’s a great feeling to know you’ve helped another soul who’s searching.
    That is now my mission.
    Thanks for the post!

  11. Thank you, your blog is really helpful for those who want to know blog,for those who want to earn money ,for those who want full time work on blogging and for those who need info about ad sense
    …………….
    …..As all know this is awe some blog

  12. Anass Farah says:

    Thank you for this great post. I see that the most important questions of those listed here is “what’s your mission”. Find it then believe in yourself, believe you can do it, plan how you’re going to do it. And then Take action, action and more actions, see what are the results do some adjustements and massive actions again.
    Mindset+Action+Perseverance are the key to everything in life :D

    Thank you again for this great post!

    Anass

  13. Tanya says:

    Strategic goals, core competencies, higher bar – all terms straight out of a meeting at a big corporation. Interesting-

  14. Ishan says:

    Thanks for this great post.
    Doing old things over and over is something that many of us can’t get over with and this is something that holds us back. I have also been a victim of this “do it, do same thing, do same thing again” disease some time and it really is a tiring cycle.

  15. Jon Sollie says:

    In life, far too many of us stumble along with only a vague
    notion of where we’re going. This article is a dynamite piece
    of insight that should be read and reread until the message
    sinks in. Pay attention…take action!

  16. You’ve given new meaning to “begin with the end in mind.” I’m going to make peace with never being done and strive to leave people wanting just a bit more from me at the end of my life. Thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s very timely as I’m preparing “goals” and intentions for the new year!

  17. ANSHUL GUPTA says:

    I think the main question would be: “Are you ready to ask questions to yourself?”.

    Because, these ten questions are not enough. What we need?

    We need an ability to ask;”what if” and “Why” kind of questions…

    What if, this world has the ability to ask “what if” kind of question?

    …Then, this world would no longer be in a state of status quo…

    …Then, we will embrace change…innovation…creativity…sharing…happiness…prosperity…resources…wisdom…

    It does not mean that, we don’t have that ability at all, but using that ability at the moment of need is a different bat game (what if it is called “different bat game” instead of “different ball game”!)

    Asking questions is something that we want to do, what we don’t have is the Ability to question.

    Generally, when we are in a group, or in a conference, we don’t ask “why” many a time because our cultural barriers don’t allow us to do so.

    “What other would think of me if I ask a foolish question?
    “What would the speaker think of my if I ask a tough question which can deride him?”

    But there is one thing can’t be denied anyways: “Leaders do not worry about all the above listed things…they simply ask, WHY”. Are you the part of this elite group?

    Go round asking a lot of dam fool questions and taking chances, only through curiosity can we discover opportunities, and only by gambling can we take advantage of them.

  18. Larry,
    After ten years of teaching personal development and now helping people create their own successful businesses I have studied a lot of information and applied the best I could find so far. I will say your article is an excellent article since it brings together what is important in life and that is about making a difference. We each make a difference when we have a mission. It is not the number of blog readers or comments that matters or how many books you or I have sold. It is all about have we made it easier for just one other person to live a better life and this can be done in countless ways. If we help more than one person so much the better.
    I believe we all have a lot to contribute more than we realize and the only one holding us back is ourselves. We don’t need a ton of money to make a difference. We just need to take action each day – one small step each day – that is inline with our mission to make a difference.

    Thanks for sharing and listening,
    David

  19. Connie Myres says:

    Your post has motivated me to put together a mission statement for my Website. I pulled out my old marketing book from college to remember exactly how to do this. So now I have to think of my Website’s purpose, vision, and overall goals. At least it will keep me focused. Thanks for the post!

  20. I ask myself every day if I’m improving or what I have accomplished… etc.

  21. This post does bring mission and goals back to the forefront for me. Thanks for the reminder.

  22. I am so glad I ran across this post. The other day I had a blogger that was looking to make his site better. I love your questions and wish I would have thought of more of them.

    I did ask him the important question “Are you getting better in your post over time” That really seemed to have him evaluate his site and instead of posting to post, he is starting to post to make it better then the day before.

    Your questions are so on target to trying to improve their blog

    Thanks again

    Steph

  23. Are you getting better is on top for me , that is called experience :) , it’s really helping for all the domains , and when you write more you get more chances to discover more secrets and tricks about it !!! No matter what you say or wonder about , you need to reach your target , what matter are results !!so you can check how successful you are !!!!!

  24. Mark says:

    Larry,

    From reading the comments, you have really hit it on the head many of Problogger’s readers.

    First, this post was one of the most well written posts I have read.

    Second, the ideas and emotions expressed touched me in a very deep way. We all struggle with our inner demons and as Seth Godin describes as our lizard brain. This post just helped me stop and think what do I want people to say at my funeral!

    Thanks for the terrific insights…

    Mark

  25. Marcia Avalon says:

    Life without the mission to make a meaningful contribution is just about paying bills and watching TV. We are each capable of giving amazing gifts to one another and to the world. Let’s get on with it!

    Thanks for the great post,
    Marcia

  26. Are Morch says:

    Hi Larry.

    This was a very thorough and thought provocative action article. Most of the time we focus on How we can get others to take action. But we kind forget to review our own call to action buttons.

    I will take your advices to my hart, and start provoke myself!

    Cheers.. Are

  27. TK says:

    I believe this post is very misleading, You DO NOT need to have some passionate connection with a mission or quest to make money. You DO NOT need to look in the mirror at the end of your life and ask yourself if you “touched lives”.

    It’s about making money. End of story. You can work up a business blog on the most boring subject possible – some mundane product – and make a cool 3 thousand a month from ONE blog. Then move on to another niche.

    Granted – it will take time to get ANY niche off the ground – depending on the niche it can take a 2 years, more or less.

    The blogs that I put alot of passion into get allot of traffic, and make next nothing in ad clicks. The blogs I manage that are PURELY for making money are the ones the pay the mortgage, the bills, and ability to work for myself.

    Problogger means PROFESSIONAL, as in making money from blogging. You see lots of the high traffic blogs that are love fests, and they don’t make squat.

  28. Eran Malloch says:

    Hey Larry, thanks for the thought provoking questions. All good ones and all relevant to my situation at the moment.

    I am coming to realise the importance of a MISSION as opposed to a goal. It’s a tough challenge to transition to, because I’m not sure what the mission is just yet, beyond generating a specific amount of money…

    However, I am aware that I need a stronger WHY in order to do the WHAT and achieve my goal/s.

    I was on Steve Pavlina’s blog the other day reading about this very topic. His answer to finding a mission or purpose in life was rather fascinating. I hope you & Darren don’t mind me reproducing it here?

    “Here’s what to do:

    Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
    Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
    Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
    Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.”

    Tough one to do, but I think there is real power in his suggestion. I shall have to do it myself (although the inner voice is protesting loudly at the idea lol).

    Anyway, I shall compile a short list of your 10 questions on a single page doc for printing, contemplation & answering. Thanks for your wisdom.

    Eran

  29. Sheri says:

    Great post on a topic I have visited often lately. My favorite quotes from this that really jumped out at me are: “A mission is a destination. A goal is a milepost on the journey.” “In a relationship, auto-pilot almost always results in a downward spiraling course.” and the most important one, “You are the CEO of your dream” Really has a way of twisting and redirecting the train of thought.