Podcast: 8 Life-Changing Questions

Questions Answers Life Change Stuck

Feeling stuck? Not sure where the course of life is taking you right now? It could be time for some disruption to the cycles that keep you on the treadmill of discontent. These 8 questions lead to life-changing disruptions.

8 Life-Changing Questions
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Episode Transcript

  1. This is the Bad Ass Dad Pod.
    1. My name is Ryan
    2. I’m a middle-aged man on a quest to prove that my best years haven’t already happened.
    3. So I’ve taken on 3 challenges to achieve some shape of bad-assery relationally, financially and physically.
  2. Here’s what i want to offer today: 8 questions to jump a rut and kickstart some movement towards something positive in life
  3. In short, these questions have the potential for inspiring some positive life change
  4. And let me be transparent as I make this bold claim about these questions inspired change: I’m really skeptical of life hacks that promise change
    1. Like, “Asking these questions will change your life forever!”
    2. That just isn’t true. [Music out]
      1. Asking these questions could inspire some action that will offer some positive life change.
      2. But let’s not lie to each other in saying that the simple act of asking a question is going to do all that much.
      3. These questions represent disruptions to the status quo
        1. Maybe your status quo is boring or under-fulfilling
        2. These questions inspire contemplation in creating ways to disrupt patterns or cycles that have devolved into ruts of boredom, sameness, or discontent.
  5. Speaking of questions. I’ve been asked for updates on my quests. So indulge me for a few seconds and allow this opportunity to fill in the question-ers.
    1. All the quests are alive and well.
    2. Physically, I’m moving towards dunking a basketball.
      1. I had a conversation with fellow age-ed dunker Andy Nicholson a couple episodes back. It was a HUGE help.
      2. The improvement physically I’ve seen in the weeks since recording has been noticeable.
      3. I started training specifically on building up my vertical jumping ability after talking to Andy, and I’m feeling really good about it. 
      4. The workout plan has gotten easier since the beginning… which, I think, means I’m getting stronger. 
      5. As of recording, I’m in a bit of a rest week, so I’ll do some jump testing at the end of this week and we’ll see where I’m at. The best I’d done previously was hit a basketball rim with my fingertips.
      6. I’m also down over 20 pounds
        1. I think I’ve finally reached that stage where I need to visit the resale shop and get some new-to-me pants. All the old pants are sagging
        2. I’m noticing quite a bit more muscle definition, too.
        3. I’ve never been very cut or defined
        4. So while I’m not training for aesthetic appearance, it’s nice to see.
        5. That’s one thing I heard through both Andy and ANW Jon Stewart:
          1. You have to train towards the goal of doing something fun, or you lose passion.
          2. That’s how these older guys stay so committed to their physical endeavors… they just do the stuff they have fun doing
          3. For most of us, there isn’t a whole lot of fun in trying to look a certain way… that’s more about some kind of obligation.
          4. So they’re trick to workout motivation is just to do the stuff that leads to more fun.
      7. So that’s the physical quest…
    3. Financially, I’m working the plan
      1. Our debt payments are right on schedule
      2. Where we’re struggling a bit is in building up our savings.
        1. My whole family hasn’t yet grasped the delayed gratification principle that’s key for building wealth.
        2. I may, in fact, be the prime culprit in this one… as I bought our family a pop up camper that we’re in the process of restoring.
        3. Overall, we’re struggling a bit to keep within our budget
          1. I actually have tried to go super simple in just saying we have XX amount of dollars for miscellaneous expenditures a month
          2. And I built an app then that we then put our expenditures in to so we all instantaneously know the balance of our budget
          3. I juuuust haven’t quite gotten everyone into the habit yet, though.
      3. But, the debt retirement is the first key to this… and we’re on track.
    4. Relationally, it’s up and down.
      1. My quest relationally has been to not take my most important relationships for granted.
      2. There have been some instances lately when I’ve gotten lazy.
        1. I think the improvement I’m showing here is that I’ve been able to realize and then name the instances where I’m getting relationally lazy.
        2. So lately my concern has been to give effort to my family. Like actually make an effort to invest in our relationships.
        3. And the questions I want to present to us today have been key in moving me towards more habitually exerting effort for my family instead of being lackadaisical in our relationships.
    5. So that’s the updates. Let’s take a look at the 10 questions that inspire life change…
  6. Ever heard of Voltaire?
    1. Most of us have, but that doesn’t mean we know a whole lot about the guy.
    2. For example, the French philosopher we know as Voltaire was actually named Francois-Marie Arouet
      1. He wrote a considerable amount of material… 
        1. If he was around today, I’m sure he’d be one of Medium’s highest contributors
        2. BUT, he was around in 18th-century
      2. He was big into freedom: free thought, freedom of religion, free society.
    3. He said this: “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”
      1. The wisdom in this line of thought, as I see it, is to concern oneself not necessarily knowing everything…
      2. But instead with asking the right questions.
      3. So much of our lives do not lead us to an end-point… or a point of arrival.
      4. There really isn’t some place we get to where we can be completely complacent and be content.
      5. So seeking to arrive at answers and a fullness of knowledge doesn’t deliver what we seek.
      6. Instead, it’s asking questions and continually pursuing knowledge and wisdom that leads to a growing fascination with life.
  7. Here’s where it’s cool to get old: you gain wisdom.
    1. I’ve learned there are a few questions that are actually a waste of time to pursue.
    2. One being: What’s going to make me happy? 
      1. In fact, I’ve written a whole blog post why I don’t care to shoot for happiness
      2. But here’s a piece of that:
        1. Happiness usually just happens when I’m shooting for something else
        2. When happiness is the goal, experiences never quite live up to the ideal
        3. Think about a family vacation…
          1. We do all this work to get the thing together right?
          2. Hotel planning, travel arrangements, scheduling…
          3. It’s majorly stressing
          4. Inevitably, in the midst of vacationing, someone is in a bad mood–much of the time it’s you, right?
          5. I have a tendency to create an ideal.
            1. We’re going to go here, we’re going to do this… we’re going to see that.
            2. And the things we have planned are going to be the most fun.
            3. However, we all know that vacations rarely meet our expectations.
            4. Lines at amusements are long. The food is good but not as great as we though. The site we thought was going to be super impressive wasn’t that impressive.
            5. Or, we just aren’t fully rested so everyone’s going through the motions a little grumpily.
          6. BUT that certainly doesn’t mean that family vacations are devoid of happiness
            1. It’s just that, most often, the happiness presents in the unplanned.
            2. It springs up in a walk on the beach taken out of boredom.
            3. Or in discovering a restaurant because the wait at the one we had planned on dining at was too long
            4. Or in the view from a scenic overlook we stopped at just because we needed a break from the car.
            5. Or in the stupid game we created to alleviate the monotony of boredom as we waited.
          7. Shoot, you know what I remember about going to the amusement park with my dad?
            1. Playing rock-paper-scissors while waiting in line for a ride.
            2. I don’t remember the actual rides… but I remember that experience with him
            3. And we used to take turns slapping each other’s forearms whenever one of us lost.
            4. I’d probably end answering questions for DCS if I did that with my kid today…
          8. ANYWAYS, it’s the liminal moments on the journey that end up delivering more satisfaction than the actual arrival.
    3. So the point here is that there some questions that are better than others…
      1. Questions that open us up to movement and journeying are good.
      2. Questions that keep us rutted in looking for things that we can’t fully achieve–like enough happiness and enough knowledge–those questions end up leaving us frustrated and stuck.
      3. I’ve figured out that these 8 questions work for me in terms of jumping the rut and getting moving when I’ve found myself confined by a search for happiness or some other dead-end target.
  8. The first question is probably the toughest to wrestle with… And that question is “What’s your why?
    1. It’s tough because it’s the question of purpose.
    2. It’s asking why are you doing the things you do? OR, more importantly, what do you aspire to accomplish through the things you do.
    3. Defining my “why” is why what inspired me to create this podcast.
      1. I’d been without a why for a number of years.
      2. So basically, I’d been wandering through life for a quite a while without a clear direction of where I wanted to get to…. or, probably to state that a little better—or more inline with my previous thoughts about asking questions and taking a journey being more important than getting answers and arriving at a destination—I was wandering without a clear journey in mind.
      3. It was when I decided to actually strive for towards the things that we wished for my family instead of waiting for them to happen that I found a WHY for what I do.
      4. So I do the things I do because I want to create an environment for my family that enables us to live into a loving and just existence in the world.
      5. So, ultimately, I do what I do because I want to check out of a materialistic, consumer-driven, environmentally and poverty-negligent lifestyle.
      6. There it is.
      7. I had this idea that we needed to consume less stuff, live more responsibly, share more good… and in doing all that we would be more content.
      8. That’s the why for me doing the stuff I’ve been doing.
    4. That hasn’t always been my why.
      1. That’s my Why right now.
      2. At other times, I got to admit that my why was something like making it through grad school
      3. Or getting my home and life ready for a child
      4. Or getting my family moved.
      5. There are certain events that take over that become the WHY for our actions.
      6. Can you define a WHY for your actions? WHY are you doing the things you do?
      7. In answering that, you may come to the conclusion that you have a WHY, but it’s not what you want. It’s never too late to change… and changing may not be as drastic as you think. Especially if you take change in increments.
  9. It’s actually the 2nd question that can help you define if your WHY is where you want it be…
    1. That question is: Does this represent my values?
    2. I don’t know if I need to talk a ton about this one.
    3. You know what your values are…
      1. You value family
      2. You value the environment
      3. You value your faith
    4. Are the things you’ve been up to reflective of the things you value?
    5. I’m a religious person—specifically of the liberal Christian persuasion.
      1. In my tribe we sometimes hold one another accountable to our values by asking if someone was to follow you around for a day, could they tell what difference your faith makes.
      2. That idea applies here… if someone were to follow you around for a day, could they tell what your values are?
      3. Honestly, they probably could.
        1. The trick is that if say your values are something other than what you believe they are then you’ve probably got some considering to do. 
        2. Your actions reveal what you really value…
        3. And your money even more so…
        4. If you want to know what you truly value, follow the money trail
        5. I did my whole expense analysis and found that the values my family were practicing were things like distraction entertainment and unhealthy living.
          1. It’s not where we wanted to be.
          2. So we’ve started to make some course corrections in how we spend our spend money…. So now it aligns a little more with what we’d prefer our values to be.
  10. This third question has become a key one for me in my effort to lose weight.
    1. The third question is: Is this going to matter to me tomorrow?
    2. So when I’m facing down the box of free donuts on the break room table, I can disrupt my urge to eat a couple by asking if it’s going to matter to me tomorrow.
      1. The answer is “yes” in this case–whether I eat the donut or not
      2. But not eating it matters in a positive way
      3. Eating matters in added calories
    3. I’ve also found myself asking this when making the choice between doing something that requires discipline and something that is a distraction.
      1. Like choosing how to use a free couple hours in the evening:
      2. Am going to spend them writing… or am I going to spend them playing mobile games
      3. Writing, obviously, is going to make a lasting impact
      4. Gaming, not so much…
      5. Is it going to matter to me tomorrow?
  11. Fourth question is closely related, so let’s dive on in…
    1. When I was in grad school, one of my classmates wrote a quote on the cover of his class notebook
      1. It said “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Which one will you choose?”
    2. That’s question four: Will you choose discipline or regret?
      1. This question applies to all kinds of situations 
      2. From facing decisions about food 
      3. To exercising
      4. To deciding to put a device down and going to spend some time with somebody.
      5. To undertaking a home project or doing a little extra something at work
    3. Discipline or regret, my friend?
  12. We’ve done four questions, let’s review real quickly…
    1. Q1: What’s your why?
    2. Q2: Does this represent my values?
    3. Q3: Is this going to matter to me tomorrow?
    4. Q4: What pain are you choosing? (Pain of discipline or pain of regret?)
  13. Question 5 is a tricky one because there’s actually really only one answer.
    1. The question is: To whom am I comparing myself?
    2. Upon hearing that, what answer immediately jumps to your mind?
      1. I’ve spent a good part of my life playing the comparison game
      2. Not always in completely unhealthy ways
        1. I’ve often used personal comparison to a mentor as a means for growth
      3. But I also have a history of getting stuck in some really ugly comparison cycles…
        1. Competitive comparison cycles…
        2. Comparisons that turn, internally, into rivalries
        3. The kind of comparison cycles where I start to turn a little bitter and begin finding satisfaction in the misfortunes of others… because it either gives me a leg up or brings someone else down to my level…
        4. That kind of comparison
        5. This was probably most recognizable when I worked as a cross country running coach for a high school team.
          1. It’s easy to get sucked up into some unhealthy comparisons because it’s a competitive endeavor.
          2. So I’m always looking at what other teams are doing
          3. And I would sometimes find myself a little relieved when they experienced some hardship or setback…
          4. I’m not saying I was wishing for bad things to happen to other teams… but I wasn’t totally sympathetic when they did.
      4. This kind of ugly comparison stuff shows up in our personal lives when we feel like we need to keep up with someone else
        1. Like someone we perceive to have a little more money
        2. Or a little more stable marriage
        3. Or more personal accolades then we have
    3. Instead of consistently comparing ourselves to others–who are walking in experiences way beyond our influence or control… the truly healthy comparison game to play is with yourself
      1. That sounds ridiculous…
      2. The person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself–OR a previous version of yourself.
      3. The only person you’ll ever be better than is a previous version of yourself.
      4. So if you need to get competitive and be better than someone, be better than the old you.
        1. Be more fit than you used to be.
        2. Have a better marriage than you used to have.
        3. Practice just a little more discipline than you used to practice.
    4. Alright, so question five then, is Who are you comparing yourself to? 
      1. Ask that as a way of redirecting your critical eye back to yourself.
  14. Gonna shift gears for question 6
    1. My wife sometimes notes that she feels like she’s on a hamster wheel… working really hard to not go anywhere
    2. I would consider that being stuck in a rut.
    3. And these questions are meant to be disrupters when we’re stuck in that feeling of being stuck in some cycle where we’re just repeating the same old tasks and getting the same old results.
    4. She noted feeling like that as I was editing the previous podcast episode– in which I talked with Jon Stewart from American Ninja Warrior
      1. Jon’s an interesting guy, as he’s competing with a great amount of success while in his 50s.
      2. He kind of off-the-cuff offered a bit of advice that’s really simplistic in nature… but if we actually did could really serve to jump the rut or hamster wheel or whatever cycle we’re feeling stuck in.
      3. He said to start each day asking “What can I do that will be fun, exciting, or inspiring today?”
    5. The hamster wheel is an expression of boredom. 
      1. If I say I’m stuck, it means I’m tired of doing the same thing over and over again.
      2. I think Jon’s question cuts to the heart of that. It’s really a question addressing how we can daily disrupt the boredom.
      3. Instead of dooing the same thing… what can I do that will be fun, exciting, or inspiring?
      4. And that doesn’t mean you need to ditch work and go frolic on the beach–well, maybe it does mean that in some cases…
      5. BUT, it could also mean you need to identify a way to have some fun at work. Or to challenge yourself to do something exciting and maybe a little scary–like setting some new goal and taking a proactive step towards it.
      6. What can I do that will be fun, exciting, or inspiring today?
  15. That was question 6. But wait, there’s more! 
    1. This next one is a serious disruptor for me.
    2. I don’t do much spontaneously…
      1. I don’t even speak spontaneously
      2. Before I open up my mouth and utter words, it’s likely I’ve already carefully chosen my words and analyzed how the hearer will respond.
      3. So i carefully consider the smallest things.
      4. That tendency… can be paralyzing.
      5. It tends to keep me stuck in inaction… instead I get bogged down in analysis.
      6. I need a kick in the pants at times to get out of analysis and inaction cycle.
      7. So question 7 is highly personally relevant.
    3. That question is Why not now?
      1. I mean, really, why can’t I get in shape now?
      2. Why can’t I change my financial situation now?
      3. Why not take a step towards a better marriage now?
      4. Why not now?
    4. I think the great self-deception of my life has been one of entitlement
      1. I had convinced myself that good things were coming, I just needed to wait for them.
      2. And wait… and wait… and wait…
      3. As age has delivered wisdom, I’ve come to realize that the best things aren’t the things that are handed to us… the best things are the things we do.
    5. Why not now? Is a question that begs for action… it pushes me to respond.
    6. So when I get lost in daydreaming about the book I’m going to write… and anxious about when that’s going to happen… asking Why not now? Inspires some action in moving towards that end.
    7. And I feel pretty good in taking some action towards.
    8. Even if I never succeed in writing and publishing a book, at least I feel content in having given it a shot.
    9. Why not now?
  16. OK. Need a review? I do:
    1. Our seven questions so far:
      1. What’s your why?
      2. Does this represent my values?
      3. Is this going to matter to me tomorrow?
      4. What pain are you choosing? (Pain of discipline or pain of regret?)
      5. Who am I comparing myself to? (The answer here should be yourself.)
      6. What will be fun, exciting, or inspiring today? (Jon Stewart)
      7. Why not now?
    2. The final question I’m going to drop for today: What is the problem?
    3. Seriously, what’s the hold up? What monster has it’s hand on your shoulder holding you down?
      1. I was helping my son with his math homework last week.
      2. He’s in 6th grade, he’s working on decimal division.
      3. It’s really tedious stuff…
        1. You know, you have to move the decimal place
        2. And multiply and add and subtract and every math function all dropped into one problem
        3. And if you mess up one step, the whole thing is off, right!
        4. So if you make a subtraction mistake in your long division work, the remainder is off and you end up missing the problem.
        5. Logically, he was struggling with this stuff.
        6. He kept getting answers wrong… and with each question and incorrect answer, I got more and more frustrated.
        7. Why?
          1. It wasn’t my homework
          2. My tail wasn’t on the line.
      4. When I thought about, the answer was silly:
        1. I was frustrated because I wanted to do something else.
        2. That was it.
        3. Once I was able to name that problem was my preference to be elsewhere doing anything other than long division, then I was able to move past it.
      5. Sometimes we get stuck in cycles of frustration simply because we don’t take the time or have the presence of mind to simply ask ourselves what our frustration is.
        1. Maybe sometimes we’re scared to ask… because the answer may come back as being something silly.
        2. Like my frustration with my son’s homework.
      6. Asking “What’s the problem?” provides a meaningful disruption for those instances when we feel stuck in a cycle of frustration.
    4. Likely of equal importance: identifying our frustration brings about ideas of how to respond to it… or even fix it.
      1. There are going to be times when the fix is just to say, I’m being silly and I need to deal with it.
      2. And there are going to be instances when the fix is more…
        1. Right?
        2. Like, I’m feeling frustrated because I feel like I should be doing something about getting a handle on my finances and I’m ignoring it.
        3. Or I should be having that conversation with my partner but I’m avoiding the discomfort of it. 
      3. It’s amazing how often the presenting issue really isn’t the problem.
        1. Like the problem in my personal example really was not that my kid did not have a great grasp on long division.
        2. The problem was that I preferred to be doing something else. 
        3. Just naming that gave me some peace with the whole situation. 
        4. I didn’t get what I wanted… I didn’t get to immediately go do something else… but I did find some sense of peace in admitting that my son and his homework was not the problem:
        5. I was the problem.
  17. That’s all I’m going to throw out there this episode.
    1. 8 questions to disrupt a rut. Need a review? 
    2. I do… so here’s a quick list: [start music]
      1. What’s your why?
      2. Does this represent my values?
      3. Is this going to matter to me tomorrow?
      4. What pain are you choosing? 
      5. Who am I comparing myself to? 
      6. What will be fun, exciting, or inspiring today?
      7. Why not now?
      8. What’s the problem? 
  18. That’s it for now!
    1. If this has been helpful, share it!
    2. A rating and review on Apple Podcasts would be 100% appreciated. In fact, it’s all I’m asking for right now.
    3. If you have questions about what you’ve heard or just want to explore more in general… check out the web site: thebadpod.com … there are links for socials there, too.
    4. My name is Ryan Dunn. I host and produce this here podcast. The music is Eyoelin.
    5. I appreciate you sharing the journey here.
    6. Until next time: PEACE!

Published by RyanDunn

Ryan Dunn has a bunch of certificates on his desk. A few are awards for content production and marketing. Another marks his ordination as a minister. One says he’s earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa. The certificate next to that says he earned an MA in Christian Practice from Duke (with honors!). Ryan is most proud, though, of the things he’s created: The Compass Podcast, some deep content on RethinkChurch.org, a series of practical spiritual advice videos, a long-lasting marriage, and fantastic little boy. (He enjoyed A LOT of help on all of those projects, especially the last two.)

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