Bottom-line Questions and How They Ground You

“The bottom line is to have fun and enjoy life.”

– Actress Rekha

The holidays can be a hard time for some people but like it says at the end of this article: “All the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of a single candle. It will shine. Like that candle, you can find your light, too.”

When we’re trying to do something challenging, we increase our odds of success when we know ourselves: our personal strengths; values; passions and fears; our intimate reasons for doing what we do; and our action steps for achieving our goals.

The knowledge of who we are, what we’re trying to do with our life, and what we stand for (and what we won’t stand for) push us over the hump during those exhausting and confusing moments we all face. We draw on them when things aren’t going the way we’d hoped or when we don’t know which way to turn.

How do we gain this self-knowledge? By asking our self for the answers, of course! I know that “asking yourself for answers” may sound super simple, but let me ask you this: if it’s so simple, why don’t more of us do it? I think the answer is that we don’t know how or what to ask.

That brings me to my Bottom Line Questions. I refer to them as the “bottom line” for two reasons. First, I come from a business family. I majored in business in university and I manage my immediate family’s wealth today. In business and personal finance, we make decisions based upon what we imagine the impact will be on our net profit as represented by the number on the literal bottom line of a financial report. I’m accustomed to thinking of things that way.

The second reason is a bit warmer and fuzzier. The term “bottom line” also means the crux of the matter. The most essential point. The primary consideration. Recalling and answering my Bottom Line Questions reminds me instantly of what’s most important to me. They snap me back into alignment whenever I’m feeling weak, scattered, confused, or out of balance.

I’ve come up with a few Bottom Line Questions that I like to ask myself and my clients from time to time, especially in those moments when we feel unsteady or confused about the right path forward.

They are:

  • What are your core values? Core values = Fundamental beliefs; guiding principles
  • What are your greatest passions… and what is stopping you from pursuing them? Passions = Activities you feel driven to learn more about; tasks that make you want to go the extra mile without having to be asked
  • What are your strengths? (Activities you do well; your talents, skills, and knowledge)
  • What are you afraid of? Basic human fears like injustice, physical pain, death, rejection, failure, and surprisingly, success. Many people, especially those of us from entrepreneurial families, fear success because we know how much hard work goes into achieving it and how much intense pressure it takes to maintain it.

The lovely thing about these questions is that we can use them to reframe the experiences of daily life in a way that moves us forward rather than remaining stuck in neutral or frozen in uncertainty and fear. Think of your passions and strengths as the ship you sail upon; your fears as a treacherous reef that threatens to wreck your ship; and your values as the towering lighthouse that guides you as you navigate the precarious seas of life.

Of course, it is key that we are grounded so we can survive this turmoil. By finding quiet time to reflect of what is important to us and why it matters, we go deeper into ourselves and find a well of self-knowledge. From there, we point our light to the right spot on the horizon.

We all face unfortunate circumstances and hard choices; no one is immune from difficulty. But when confronted with a hard choice, we will feel much better about deciding when:

(1) we understand our core values, strengths, fears and passions;

(2) we’ve chosen an option that leverages our strengths and passions and isn’t in conflict with our values; and

(3) we understand the meanings we give to our actions.

Any time that I feel daunted or inadequate in the face of a challenge, I know I must stop and reflect on the answers to my Bottom Line Questions and remind myself of my values and the reasons for my motivation. Then I reconnect with my accountability partner and ask for help. I start taking better care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I celebrate every little victory to fuel my passion anew.

And when I do these essential things, I soon find that I’m full again— like a full moon—and my brilliance shines and my light touches everyone I meet.

Remember, all the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of a single candle. It will shine. Like that candle, you can find your light, too.

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