Regular self-reflection is the key to simple and intentional living. Here are 7 questions to ask yourself every day for a more meaningful and purposeful life.
I spent a lot of my life running on autopilot. Do you know the feeling?
Aways busy, rushing from one project to the next, adding more and more to my plate—but no matter what I accomplished, I never felt satisfied or successful.
Instead, everything I checked off my to-do list only seemed to multiply, and I’d end up with five more things to do. And each accomplishment only made me feel like I was running further behind! No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep up and life was spiralling out of control.
Looking back now, it’s so obvious. I was running in circles, working hard but not actually working towards anything that mattered to me. I was so caught up on the treadmill of life that I never paused to stop, reflect and question why I was working so hard in the first place.
I thought I was too busy for something as trivial as “self-reflection” but now I know it’s one of the most valuable things I can do with my time, and for you as well.
If you want to stop treading water and instead, start moving forward with the things that matter, here are 7 intentional questions to ask yourself every day.
7 Questions To Ask Yourself Daily
One of the simplest ways to be intentional every day is to include these questions in your morning routine. Even if you don’t have time to journal, just thinking about these questions can help you focus on your priorities in life.
I also recommend coming back to this list whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed or you have a big decision to make.
1. Why am I doing this?
This is a deceptively simple yet very powerful question to ask yourself. I think too often we assume we know why we do what we do, but when we carve out time to sit and reflect, the truth can surprise us.
For example, I spent much of my twenties working as a travel agent. I told myself I did it because I loved to travel and I was good at my job. But in reality, I hated the work—and when I dug deep, I realised that I only stayed because I was scared to do something else and fail. I had the security of a job that was respectable to other people and I didn’t want to lose that.
But asking “why” before we do something isn’t always so profound; sometimes it’s just practical. In a recent podcast episode, I shared a story about a weekly report that I used to run at an old job.
I prepared the report every single Monday because it’s what I was trained to do by someone who was undoubtedly told to do the same by the person before her, and so on. People had been running this report for years … but when I started asking questions, I realised not a single person read it.
No one even knew why I was running it.
In all likelihood, the person who requested the report had left the company, and everyone else just kept on doing what they were doing. Because we’re creatures of habit, aren’t we? Which is normal and human, but every once in a while we need to step back and check in with why we do the things we do.
It might save you ten minutes on a Monday morning, or ten years spent chasing a goal you don’t even really want.
2. Who am I doing this for?
This is a good question to ask yourself regularly when you feel your priorities are out of alignment. It can help shine a light on where you need stronger personal boundaries.
As is often the case with self-reflection, it can reveal some harsh truths—maybe working late all the time isn’t really “for your family” the way you initially thought? It might be a bitter pill to swallow, but awareness is the first step to making changes that better align with your values.
On the other hand, when you’re clear about who you do things for, it can reaffirm decisions that you’ve already made and help you stay motivated. For example, making healthy life choices might be easier if you’re doing it for your family and not strangers on the Internet.
But I should also point out that self-reflection isn’t about judging yourself or others. Instead, it’s about honesty; knowing why you do what you do and who you do things for, so you can make intentional decisions about how to invest your time, money and energy.
3. Is there a simpler way?
When I’m faced with a problem or a task, I’ve noticed that my first instinct is to overthink things and make the situation way more complicated than it needs to be.
I think this stems from a deeply held cultural belief that hard work and effort are “good” and simple (aka “easy”) solutions are somehow lazy. But in an era where we arguably have more demands on our time and energy than ever before, why work harder when you could work smarter.
Taking just five minutes to ask the question and look for a simpler way has saved me countless hours throughout my life. (And I’ll also admit that sometimes it happens in reverse —I’d spend hours doing something and then realise I made it harder than need be!)
Both are prime examples of why this is a good question to ask every day, or at a minimum, before embarking on any project.
4. How does this add value to my life?
Your time and energy are valuable, and you are valuable.
I’m pointing this out because sometimes it’s easy to forget. We trade away our precious lives in little moments—five dollars here and five minutes there—because it feels insignificant at the time. But in reality, we often spend our lives on things that give us little value in return.
So flip the narrative. Ask everything you own and everything you do to earn its place in your life by asking the question, “How does this add value?” Whether it’s a new purchase or another task on your to-do list, make sure it’s worth it.
And a quick tip: if you can’t quickly explain in very specific terms how something is adding value to your life, then odds are it isn’t.
Related Post: How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty In 5 Simple Steps
5. What am I giving up?
Everything in life has a tradeoff. I’ve hinted at this already; we give up time and money in exchange for things. But it’s more than a price tag or a few hours out of your day.
Everything also has an opportunity cost. For example, when your home is cluttered, you spend time and energy cleaning that you could spend playing with your kids or maybe just taking a nap! The cost isn’t just time, it’s also rest or connection.
These tradeoffs are easy to overlook, which is why I think this is such an important question to ask yourself. When you put a name to the tradeoffs associated with any decision, it helps you see things more clearly. Again, it’s not about right or wrong, but it is about alignment.
Whenever you decide to do or buy something, make sure you think about what you’re giving up to make it happen. Keep your values and priorities in mind, and make sure you’re not trading what you want most for short-term gains.
6. How does this make me feel?
This is another deceptively simple question that’s easy to ignore because we assume we know the answers. It can also feel strange, or selfish even, to reflect on your feelings but it’s important because they can be clues.
Or in the words of Dr Susan David, our “emotions are signposts that you may not be living with intention”.
If you’re doing something that makes you feel sad, anxious, or angry it’s important to understand why. Are you doing something that goes against your core values? Or do you need more rest and support?
Or when you feel more positive emotions—why? What can you learn from your feelings and how can you apply what you learn in your everyday life? How can you be intentional about creating the life you want?
7. Am I being honest with myself?
Finally, it’s important to check that you’re being honest with yourself, because if you’re not, none of your other answers really matter.
And to be clear, I’m not suggesting that you’re purposely lying to yourself. But our brains like to protect us from things like pain and hurt, so it can be a bit creative at times.
For example, when I was in college, I told myself that I was busy all the time because I couldn’t afford to work fewer hours (and that’s why I didn’t have many friends). When in reality, I was scared to work less because that would mean I had no excuses for not getting out there and trying to make friends! And I was horrified at the thought of rejection.
It’s obvious to me now but I was clueless for years because I never made time for self-reflection. Instead, I told myself the same stories over and over and wondered why I felt so unhappy.
More Intentional Living Resources
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:
- 7 Simple Ways To Start Living Intentionally
- 4 Practical Steps To Living a Purposeful Life
- How To Live Your Own Life + Be True To Yourself
- 7 Daily Journal Prompts For Self-Reflection + Purposeful Living
Do you think questions will help you live a more intentional life? Do you know any good questions to ask yourself every day? Let me know in the comments! x
The Simply + Fiercely Show is a podcast for women who want to clear their clutter and create space for freedom and joy. If your life keeps getting bigger—but not better—then it’s time to declutter from the inside out. LISTEN NOW