People First HR Services

Three questions can change your world

Colleen Coates

Well it’s March already — two months since you made those New Year’s resolutions and maybe two months into your organization’s new fiscal year. Sadly, many of us have either already failed to follow through on what seemed like a reasonable goal (10 pounds should miraculously fall off the hips as long as chocolate does not hit the lips), or even worse, haven’t set any goals (I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m sure I’ll get there).

Well, don’t worry and don’t feel sorry for yourself. There really is no time like the present to get off your chair and get going on whatever is you want to do. What? You’re not sure? Don’t wait until life happens without you, because it will. Whether you want a vacation, want a loving relationship, want to retire or want a career change, there are three simple questions that can help you to make changes in your world.

What am I trying to achieve? This is the first question that you need to ask yourself when you’re stuck in a rut or trying to make a change in your personal or professional life. It’s very easy to get caught up in the drama or complexity of your current situation. By focusing on the problem and not thinking about solutions, you may be cheating yourself out of actually resolving your dilemma. For example, if you are not happy with your current job and continually complain to friends, no matter how much they love you they are going to get tired of hearing about it. If someone hasn’t said it already, here’s what they are thinking – “Why don’t you search for a new job?”

No one wants to spend a lot of time with a victim. Victims are those people you hear blaming everyone but themselves for their misfortunes, stating who has wronged them and how things aren’t fair. They are searching for support and encouragement to continue these self-deprecating thoughts, not recognizing they can control their own destiny. By turning thoughts towards solutions, all kinds of possibilities start to surface. Asking the question “What am I trying to achieve?” forces the mind to focus on the goal, the desired end, the final destination, not the bumps along the way.

Think about it, if you don’t like your job, what can you do about it? Can you start to search for a new job at another organization or apply for positions within your organization? Can you work on building better relationships in your current role? Can you ask for different responsibilities? The simple task of focusing on a goal immediately engages your brain in creative thinking as you search for answers as to how you are going to reach your destination. Having a goal can make an amazing difference in your attitude and your ability to focus.

Once you have your goal in mind, and your brain is now actively engaged in focusing on solutions to achieving your goal, the next life-changing question is “What stands in my way?”

Identification of obstacles that stand between you and your destination begins with a list of those things that you have control over and those you don’t. Where you have control, then it’s a matter of dealing with those things one at a time until they no longer represent an obstacle. Greater creativity may be required where you don’t have control, but until you’ve identified what they are, you just don’t know. So instead of speculating, write them down. Once written, problems often diminish. Finally, it is incredibly important to tell at least one person your goal. Why? Chances are you will be in a better position to stick to your plan and if you tell your friends or family what you want to accomplish.

So now you’ve identified your goal, you’ve created a list of obstacles, prioritized them and started to overcome them, now what? The third life-changing question is “Who else has figured it out already?”

While some people now spring to action to figure out how to reach their goal, others will look to their neighbour, colleague, friend or maybe the Internet to see who has already accomplished that goal, and how they did it. As the old adage goes, why reinvent the wheel? After all, if you’re going to make chicken soup you probably don’t start by throwing random ingredients into a pot, you most likely pull out your recipe book, call a friend or give grandma a call. The same process can be applied to the goals you are trying to achieve in life. Need to lose weight, look to the experts. Need to change jobs, find a career coach or someone to help you build a great resumé. Need to grow your business, look to businesses that have grown. Once you start searching for others with the same goals in life, you realize that you are not alone and there are people happy to share both their successes and their disappointments with you. After all, “Intelligence is learning from your own mistakes; wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others.” — Anonymous


Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 16, 2013 H1