Do you ever ask yourself questions?
Here are some good questions to maybe throw your own way every now and then:
“What would I do with most of my time if I had no restrictions or responsibilities?”
“Do I know what that person really meant, or am I just assuming?”
“Why should I trust the thought I just had?”
“When, exactly, did I break?”
Too many self-questions can paralyze you in a state where you’re so afraid of making wrong choices that you never actually make or stick with any.
As with using words in general, there seems to come a point when more self-questions or pieces of advice ironically prove less meaningful or impactful.
There’s no shortage of peppy little books to buy, all beautifully designed and jammed with contrived mantras. But do you really think the best way to get to the bottom of your true state is by trudging through someone else’s fluffy words, just hoping for the right line or two to jump out at you and stick?
In my experience, the wider the gap between honest and intentional—between real and contrived—the more you unconsciously teach yourself to stop paying attention.
Surrounding yourself with motivational noise makes you feel good for “trying to change.” Taking an unfiltered look at your real life and issues over time is incredibly uncomfortable; but that’s what forces you to actually change.
Others’ thoughts serve best only to frame, confirm, or ignite your own.
I’ll put it this way: If you’re reading or hearing this instead of getting ready to face your limitations by going public with your experience, please stop reading now.
I can’t change for you. No one can.
By contrast, the right self-questions—those honest ones only you would know to ask—can stick unnoticed in the back of your mind where they quietly collect the dust of thoughts and feelings as seasons pass.
In time, the dust clumps and hardens to form answers that cut to the very heart of your being. That’s when what you truly want becomes impossible to ignore.
One Wednesday afternoon back in early 2014, I sat down with some weed, paper, and a pencil. For probably the first time since my addiction took hold, I simply lit up and waited in peace and silence for whatever would come next.
The result? I was forced to stare myself in the face and demand answers to some of my own toughest self-questions, such as:
“When will I start controlling my addiction? Why haven’t I yet?”
“When will I go public with my experience?”
Here are the relevant pieces of what I wrote that day as I sat, high and alone, in my car:
“This is the kind of final high I would have always wanted.
“It’s so relaxing just sitting here, writing whatever. There’s no pressure. It’s so different from how I usually feel the need to be constantly entertained while high.
“Could this be the last time?
“Could I quit tomorrow if I chose to?
“I think when you go public with your experience, what you want to do won’t let you go on not doing it for long. You see your real convictions ready to be shared, which makes it impossible to just keep putting them off indefinitely.
“The clearer my intentions become, the more compelled by them I get, and the less able I am to comfortably let more time keep slipping by.
“But what will be my breaking point? Do I need one?
“Do I need to hit rock bottom before I can change?
“Also, what could undo over twenty years’ worth of perceived ineptitude and regret for not making the progress I feel I should have made?
“I think I believe the intuitions I write down; but if I really believed, wouldn’t I just keep going after what I say I want with everything I have until it becomes my reality?
“I think of all the perfect plans I’ve made and then not kept to…
“It could be that I do believe my intuitions, but just not in myself to follow them.
“So, should I simply try again with sheer willpower to quit weed tomorrow?
“Why should I believe I’ll actually stay consistent this time, whenever I do decide to quit?
“I’ve never been able to successfully quit for long. That’s my reality.
“Going public with my experience sort of feels like being forced to put all my own life hypotheses to the test. That’s quite a daunting weight to carry, especially compared to just thinking and planning.
“But that’s the thing: My primary intuition (my main hypothesis) right now is that I just need to focus on going public.
“Even though all I’ve done so far is record my experience and begin putting it together to share, my hypothesis is that that’s actually enough.
“I feel progress—like the change I want to see is already taking place beneath the surface.
“As I prepare to share, what I see as ineptitude in myself gets swept up into a grander, more transcendent process.
“Even with all my failures and lack of self-confidence, just doing this (right now) really feels like it’s all I need to be doing.
“It’s like one of my favorite songs, All Will Be Well, by The Gabe Dixon Band, where the chorus goes: ‘All will be well, even after all the promises you’ve broken to yourself. All will be well. You can ask me how but only time will tell.’
“But going public with my experience is only really enough—all will really only be well—if I actually end up in control of my addiction as a result.
“I mean, don’t I have to somehow DO whatever my part is (beyond just getting my story ready to share)?
“How can I believe in myself to do whatever my part is, since I’ve never been able to follow my convictions before?
“When will I start?
“I’m out of money, burning through precious final resources, and damaging relationships.
“I feel like I’m wasting potential.
“When will I start?
“Do I need an actual date?
“Well, today’s Wednesday. I was going to smoke tomorrow morning…”
I see the high thoughts I just shared as sort of a snapshot of the winding components of what’s really a single question:
“When and how will I actually change, since I feel like I’ve failed at very attempt in the past?”
No one else could really ask me that.
Much of this story is just years’ worth of the accumulated dust of answers to such self-questions.
When will you start? Maybe you already have and don’t know it.
Tomorrow: A few days after recording today’s high thoughts, I had an incredible experience that never would have happened if I hadn’t first gotten high in my car and silently shouted my own toughest questions at myself on a random Wednesday afternoon.
It was also an experience that never would have happened if I’d kept to any of my previous convictions about “starting tomorrow.”