If you don’t know what’s missing in your life, then you’ve been asking yourself the wrong question.
Perhaps you should ask “What’s present in my life that’s preventing me from getting what’s missing in my life?”
It may sound like an odd way to ask the question but the way you phrase questions to yourself will dictate how you think about everything. And if you change the way you think, you can change your results.
When you don’t know what’s missing, you don’t know what to focus on to obtain what’s missing. So maybe it’s time to change the questions you ask yourself.
“What’s missing in my life?”
No… How about: “What is in my life right now that, if it were missing, would help me get what I need to feel happy?”
How your phrase your language changes how you think about a problem.
The above question sounds weird on purpose. And in order to understand it, you need to reach inside yourself a little deeper than you normally would. This will help you access your innermost resources that will help you come up with a solution.
How you word what you say to yourself will dictate the answer you get, and may also be exactly what you need to hear to change your life completely.
A single sentence can change your entire life. It changed mine! I don’t know how my life would have turned out, better or worse, if my stepfather hadn’t said what he said to me as a child. His words stuck with me my entire life. I’ll share that comment in a moment.
Since childhood I always wanted to be around older people. Hanging around adults just felt better to me. I wanted to be accepted by adults and interact with them. Some would talk to me and some wouldn’t. I was getting a little frustrated because I couldn’t figure out why some adults didn’t want to talk to me. I’m sure being 10 years old had something to do with it for sure.
I expressed this frustration with my stepfather and he told me something that became seared into my brain the moment he said it. He told me: “If you want to be treated like a man, you need to act like one.”
For some reason, what he said and the way he said it made an impact.
At that moment I changed. I went from acting and playing like a carefree child to paying more attention to how I showed up in the world. I became adept at listening to how adults talked and interacted with each other. I would monitor their responses after I would say or do something to them. I gauged if they reacted favorably or unfavorably.
I noted if they seemed happy to talk with me or if were they just getting the conversation over with so that they could go on to better things. I didn’t know then that I was sharpening my skills as a keen observer of human behavior.
I did change. My entire life changed in fact because I was able to communicate with people much older than me, giving me a little advantage when I wanted to get away with things. That didn’t mean I was an automatic troublemaker, but I could get out of trouble if and when needed.
Because I observed how people reacted to my words and behavior, I could almost predict their behavior in many circumstances. This was both a gift and a curse. “Curse” is a strong word (and I’ll explain it in a moment), but because I got so good at adjusting my behavior to fit other people’s personalities, I was liked and trusted by almost everyone.
Even in elementary school, kids would confide in me and tell me secrets. It was nice to be trusted. It felt powerful and I felt admired and respected.
However because I learned to adapt in response to other people’s behavior around me (by noticing how they responded to me), I became a chameleon – able to adapt my behavior to avoid confrontation in almost every situation. This was the curse that followed me throughout most of my life.
How is being adaptive a curse? I learned how to adjust my behavior so well that I never developed individuality. I didn’t develop a distinct personality that people could read. I was everyone’s friend and knew how to communicate with almost everyone I met. But I was lonely inside.
I was everyone’s friend, and no one was really mine. I would know almost everything about other people but they knew very little about me. I’d share personal things but only what I believed they wanted to hear.
I had these incredible powers of observation and adaptation but no personality that I could truly call my own. I took this “personality” into all my relationships up until I was about 38 or so.
I had best friends that I couldn’t stand to talk to because I really didn’t enjoy being with them. They didn’t know who I was because I wasn’t showing them so I would burn out my friendships. There have only been a few people outside my intimate relationships that have gotten to know more of the real me than anyone else. My true self never appeared because I believed that the only way to communicate with others was to be the person I believed they wanted me to be.
Do you know what happens when you are the person others want you to be?
- People trust you more
- People fall in love with you quicker
- People ask you to do more things for them because you’re always saying “yes” to their requests
- People take up more of your time, energy and even money
- You get completely burnt out because you can’t stand being around those people anymore
All these “benefits” of being a chameleon are really just symptoms of a deeper, darker issue.
When you are not yourself around people and you behave the way you believe they want you to behave, you will carry the heavy burden of faking it until you collapse. And the longer you fake your smile, your laughter, and your friendship, the more you feel drained and taken advantage of. The people you’re with won’t even know they’re doing it to you!
When you transform into the person you believe others want you to be, they’ll never know you’re doing it because nothing will ever seem wrong or unusual to them.
Do you adapt to be what you believe others want you to be? Would you even know you’re doing it? Would you know why?
My “why” was that one thing my stepfather told me when I was 10 or 11:
“If you want to be treated like a man, you have to act like one”
The benefits from my change were phenomenal. I became an acute observer of human behavior and communication. But that skill came with a price… for the next 28 years, no one would know the real me.
What’s worse than that is that I didn’t know the real me. I had what I thought was my identity but I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t happy.
Do you know the real you? What’s something that someone said to you when you were younger that changed your entire life? Was that change for the better? Did it have its advantages at the time? Did you learn, grow and evolve from it? Or did it set you back in some (or many) ways?
I was about 38 when I realized I wasn’t being who I really wanted to be. I had no personal boundaries because I was too busy pleasing everyone around me. I would get sad for no reason, angry out of the blue, and just felt like there was something wrong with me.
There was something wrong with me: I didn’t know who I was because I never stood up for myself and allow people to judge me.
Yes, I highly recommend allowing people to judge you. Not because it feels good to be judged but to make sure they are seeing the real you. When you know you’re going to get judged no matter what you do, you might as well come out of your shell and be exactly who you are.
Then when they are upset at you, they can say things like, “Wow, you’re awful and stupid for what you just did.” And you can give them a big smile and say, “Thank you so much! The fact that you said that means that my authentic self affected you in some way that is hard to understand for you. I totally get it. I appreciate you being honest with me.”
They would probably look very puzzled and reply, “What are you talking about? You’re even stupider than I thought!”
Again, you can say, “Thank you for saying that. I respect that you are giving me your honest opinion. I don’t want anything less than that from you.“ It doesn’t mean you can’t defend yourself – feel free! It just means that you accept that other people will have opinions no matter what you do.
The judger will probably walk away shaking their head after an exchange like that because they will feel justified in their opinion of you.
But you know the truth. When you are being your true self, you will have many realizations and come to embrace things like:
- I don’t know everything
- I won’t be attractive to everyone
- Not everyone will see me as kind
- Not everyone will see me as compassionate
- Not everyone will see everything I know I am
And the reason this is all good is because when you are being who you really are, you realize that there are many people who aren’t comfortable with that.
They’d rather you fake it so that they don’t have to be their authentic selves either.
Some people don’t show their own authentic self. They don’t want to expose their truly authentic personality to others. They’re afraid of what people will think and how they will be judged.
But being judged, even though it doesn’t feel good, is a strong indication that you are being yourself, because more people judge those who live from their authenticity than those who wear a mask.
Think about how disempowering it feels to wear a mask. I did for about 30 years and even though I didn’t know I was doing it, I do remember that empty, missing-something feeling inside.
You ever have that feeling? Saying things to yourself like, “Something’s missing… I don’t know what it is, but something is missing in my life. What is it!?”
Let’s start filling what might be missing in your life next.
What’s Missing In Your Life?
That’s probably something you’ve asked yourself at least once. But the way you word that question can make a huge difference in helping you discover what is actually missing in your life.
We’re so used to asking ourselves questions in a way that makes sense. And as long as the question makes sense, we’ll come up with the same answers we always come up with.
It’s like asking, “What’s two plus two?”
You always know the answer. But some people will tell you, “Well, that’s not always the case”. And you’ll think they’re crazy! It’s simple math, of course the answer is “four”!
But you already know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Two plus two doesn’t always equal four. Because the first thing you have to do is define “two”.
Two of what plus two of what is how you start to think differently. So when you come up with a question like, “What’s missing in my life?”, think about how you can word that differently so that you can come up with different answers.
Does that make sense?
For example, let’s go through an exercise. I’m going to ask you a question, and you just think, or say out loud, the answer.
Are you ready?
What is missing from your life?
Just think of one thing that you believe is missing from your life.
Now, come back and listen to how I word the next question. It’s going to be slightly different and take your brain in alternate direction. It may make you feel different, and you will probably, actually, think differently about the question – even though it’s similar to the first one.
Here it is:
What exists in your life that prevents you from having what’s missing in your life?
This question, the way it’s worded, forces you to come at the problem from the outside in, instead of the inside (where you are now), out.
It’s sort of like being locked in a building. You want to get out but no matter how many times you try to open the doors, they won’t budge. You try every day in a different way, but you always come up with the same result: You can’t get out of the locked building.
But what if you were outside the building trying to get in? That’s what I like to do with some of the problems in my life. That’s how I think and reword questions so that I can come up with different answers.
What exists in your life that prevents you from having what’s missing in your life?
That’s an out of the box way to think. Now, I realize I added an element to the question that wasn’t there before, and that is that something is actually preventing you from having what’s missing in your life.
If you think about it, when you don’t have what you want, something must be preventing it right?
And really, when you really want or need something, what should you focus on? Should you focus on the thing you need, or what can help you get the the thing you need?
If I want to open a locked door, should I focus on just the door, or perhaps the means to open or unlock the door?
Those “means” are your inner resources. Resources are the thoughts and ideas you may or may not know you have, but usually lead to the solution to your problem.
Here’s another rewording of the same question:
What’s missing from the way your are trying to fulfill what’s missing from your life?
This one is trickier, but if you pay really close attention, you can tell I redirected your focus from the thing that’s missing to the process of getting the thing that’s missing.
You see what I’m doing?
When you shift your focus to the process instead of the end result, you shift your thinking.
The end result is what you want. For example, if you said, “What’s missing from my life is more money”, then by focusing on not having enough money, you’re really just focusing on how you feel about not having enough money.
You can address the feeling, for sure. I’m all about that. And, you certainly just let go of attachments, and you won’t even worry about what’s missing. I’m all about that too!
But sometimes those processes can take years to get through because there are so many layers. I prefer to just go toward the most resourceful path – the direction that will create the change you want.
The challenge with the question “What’s missing from my life?” is that you don’t know what’s missing. You only know something is missing.
If you think there’s something missing in your life, then there is! I won’t sugar coat it. What’s missing is what’s missing! But how do you find out what that is?
Again, change the wording and the focus of the question.
The question, “What’s missing from my life?” leads you to focus on an end result. But since you don’t know what’s missing, then you’re focusing on nothing, right?
I mean, if you don’t know what’s missing, and you ask, “Well, what’s missing?” You’ll always come up with, “I don’t know!”
But if you change the words so that you’re focusing on something else other than what’s missing, you get a different response.
When you word the question like this, you will think differently:
“What do I need to do to help me attain what’s missing in my life?”
Or, you can be even more creative and ask, “If I had what’s been missing in my life, how would I feel, and what would my life look like?”
Think about that for a minute. Pause this show if you have to because what this question does is take you to a place of already having what’s been missing in your life and working backwards from there.
If you had what’s been missing in your life, how would you feel and what would your life look like?
Even if you don’t know what’s missing, you can still come up with an answer.
And to further drill this home, you can answer the question:
If someone took my place in this life, this is what I’d tell them they need to do in order to feel satisfied and fulfilled.
The power behind this question is that it really digs into your subconscious mind and finds the answers you already have.
That’s the trick to all of this too… You have the answers inside of you, but because you’ve been asking the same questions the same way for such a long time, you can’t access those answers.
The simple question, “What color is the sky?” only needs to dig so deep into your brain for an answer. “Why, that’s an easy one!”. But change it only slightly, and you are forced to use more resources inside your mind:
“What makes the sky that color?” or, “What needs to happen to change the color of the sky?”
Unless you’re a meteorologist or just know this kind of trivia, the rest of us have to think about questions like this.
Change the questions you ask yourself to shift the focus. How do you do that? Well, it does take practice. After all, how do you learn to change a question if you never practice doing that?
I’ll tell you how in this last segment.
Changing The Way You Think
Changing the questions you ask yourself is vital to changing your life. This is why the worksheets I create are so effective: They ask you things in a way you’re not used to.
We get used to the way our language works, and our thinking is typically confined to the language we use.
Pretty interesting thought, isn’t it? In other words, the words you use to communicate are also the boundaries that are created for your thought processes.
If you know 20,000 to 30,000 words and have figured out the easiest and most concise way of putting those words together to communicate your ideas, then that is the extent of your normal thought processes.
When you have to think a little harder and access more ways to arrange words into different and more creative sentences, then you start communicating a different message.
After all, the sentence, “I drove the car” is a lot different than, “I car the drove”. But even though the latter sentence sounds awkward, notice what happens in your mind if you try to translate it.
Your brain goes to a different place for translation. The same words in a different order cause you to think in a way that changes the way you process information.
The problem a lot of us have or have had is that we’ve asked the same questions of ourselves the same way, over and over again. This creates an infinite loop of despair because we never come to a solution.
The question, “How can I make more money?” is a question I asked myself over and over again throughout the years.
But when I changed what to focus on, I made different decisions. I would try to make more money by doing what I believed would make more money, but it never worked. So I decided to take my focus off the money.
Since what I was asking wasn’t leading to a solution, I changed the question:
“Who do I need to be to be the person who can make as much money as I deserve?”
This question doesn’t assume I don’t have enough money, it just assumes that something needs to change in me.
What’s interesting about rewording the questions to yourself is that you discover something else that may be preventing you from getting the things you want in life. Or, even better, revealing what’s missing in your life.
My question, “Who do I need to be to be the person who can make as much money as I deserve?” forces me to shift my perspective. It’s no longer about the money, it’s about the things I can do and the thoughts I can have that lead me to my ultimate goal.
Does that make sense?
In fact, that question assumes I deserve money. But what if when I ask it, I get this bad feeling inside of me and the words “I don’t deserve money” come to mind?
Imagine if that was in me the whole time? That would reveal a whole lot about why I’m not making the amount of money I deserve. After all, if I feel I don’t deserve money deep down inside, I’m going to make decisions based on that deep belief.
That’s why finding out your values is so important. The values worksheet I created is designed to figure out what’s most important to you so that your decisions and behavior are in alignment with those deeper, subconscious beliefs you’re carrying around.
When you’re aligned with your deepest beliefs about what’s most important to you, everything in your life lines up.
Now, if your deepest, most important aspect regarding money has to do with scarcity, it would certainly lead you into fear and scarcity over and over again.
For example, in the worksheet I ask, “What’s important to you about X?” “X” being the topic you want to address.
So I’d say, “What’s important to you about money?” and you’d list a bunch of things that are important to you about money.
“I want lots of it”
“It has to come easy”
“I don’t want to be in debt”
It’s not exactly how the exercise goes but close enough. Once you list everything that’s important to you about a major area in your life, then you put them in order of most important to least, you’ll discover what’s driving all of your decisions and behavior.
That’s why when you reword the questions you ask yourself, you access the deeper recesses of your mind, causing you to uncover some very revealing and life-changing truths.
When I changed how I worded my questions about money in my life, I changed my direction. I realized that it wasn’t money that was hard to get, it was my fear of being good enough to deserve the money.
If my decisions are motivated by that belief, I’ll never make the money I deserve. So I worked on that and changed my outcome.
This works for anything you ask yourself, especially on a consistent basis.
“What’s missing in my life?” is a big question! How many answers can you come up with? Probably quite a few.
But “Where would you search for what’s missing, if you knew what was missing?” is a completely different way to look at the problem you’re having.
So what I want to share is one of the ways to figure out how to reword the self-talk and self questioning going on in our minds. One thing is to use the 5 W’s and 1 H. You know what those are, right?
Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. These change the direction of a question. The direction is what you focus on. When you change the wording of your question, focus on the process of getting what you want, not the subject of what you want
For example, focusing on the all the ways of unlocking a door is a lot different than focusing on the door itself. Just focusing on the problem, a locked door for instance, only keeps the problem stagnant and unchanging. This is where your negative feelings lie as well, so you end up focusing on how bad things are instead of how you want to feel.
Take the focus off of the problem and move it towards the process of getting your outcome.
Another example of that is the statement, “I just want to be happy”. The focus is, I’m not happy. How can I get ‘happy’?
Using the 5 W’s and 1 H, I can find different ways to reword the question.
Who do I need to be in order to find happiness?
What can I do differently than I am doing now?
When will I change what I do in order to get happiness into my life?
Where do I need to be in order to find happiness?
Why am I unhappy now?
How do I know I’m unhappy?
The trick to coming up with different questions is by adding the 5 W’s and 1 H in creative ways. You may not be great at this at first, but you’ll get better.
Just start the sentence with one of them and create it as you go. So if you always ask yourself, “What’s missing in my life?”, then start playing with the words using a different W or H word.
Try using “when”. Let me think of one… instead of “What’s missing in my life?”, you could say:
Was there a time when something wasn’t missing in my life? What was happening at that time?
Here’s another “when”
When do I know something’s missing, and when does it feel like it’s not?
These are brain twisters, aren’t they? Just play with the Ws and 1 H so that you are wording what you always say to yourself differently. That way you travel a different direction for the solution.
Another way to start thinking differently is to change the words around in those same questions.
Just like, “I car the drove” changes how you have to process the question, it can work with almost anything.
What’s missing in my life can change to “What’s life that’s missing?”
Or, “Missing life is what’s that?”
I realize they sound weird, but you have to make things sound a little weird to get out of the pattern you’ve created with the repetition of the same questions over and over again.
The question, “How can I get a raise at work?” when repeated enough times will decrease in effectiveness over time. But switching the words around might have a different effect: “How can work get a raise out of me?” Or back to using the Ws and H, and swapping words around:
“How is getting a raise going to help me?” or “What will a raise do for my work?”
These are all strange questions, but that’s good!
Some makes sense, some don’t. But the process of trying to make sense of them is what causes you to come up with different ideas and different solutions. And another thing it does is help you break from the pattern of feeling bad when you ask the question.
If you feel bad every time you ask yourself, “What’s missing from my life?”, then you definitely need to change the question.
Like, “If I had everything I needed, how would other people describe what my life looks like?”
What do you think of that reframe? Kind of wild how it not only takes you outside the problem looking in, but now you’re looking at your life from the perspective of someone else.
Language can be static and unchanging, causing you to repeat bad feelings over and over again, or it can be dynamic and surprising. This is similar to how I coach people. I like to surprise them with questions they absolutely wouldn’t ask themselves.
For example, one of my favorite approaches is removing the assumption that something is bad. So when someone tells me, “I just lost my job”, I might ask, “Really? Is that a bad thing?”
They’ll say, “Well, of course it is! I need to work to make money”.
“Okay, but why is it bad to not have a job? Or more specifically, why is it bad to not have money?”
I get the strangest looks. But for the first time, they have to dig deeper to explore their beliefs about the problem. We usually assume something is bad because we’re programmed throughout life to “know” what’s good and bad.
But when we aren’t relying on our old programming and are forced to figure out if we really believe what we believe, we access parts of our brain that reveal a lot more hidden truths.
I believed for the longest time that without a relationship, I couldn’t be happy. Well, coming from a home where my mom wouldn’t leave her husband no matter how bad he treated her probably instilled the belief that I can only be happy in a relationship, even if it’s an unhealthy one.
When I finally understood that I was simply going with what I’d observed others doing, not having tried being alone and exploring that for a while, I discovered a lot about myself.
Your beliefs are many times made up by other people. They’re often not true and not your personal experience. So keep this in mind as you go through the years. You actually see this phenomenon time and time again with people who complain about politics. They’ll put down the people they see on TV only by what they heard a reporter talk about, but they won’t do their own research to find what’s biased and what’s truth.
The same goes for anything you’ve heard about someone else. Do you listen to other people’s opinion about them? Or do you find out the truth on your own by asking them directly?
What truths will you discover that might help you reveal what’s missing in your life?
Surprise your mind by changing how you think. Change how you think by altering the language you use. Change the words, mix them up, add the 5 Ws and 1 H, and just know that if you choose to ask yourself the same questions in the same way every time, you may never figure out what’s missing from your life.
Maybe nothing’s missing! Maybe it’s always been there but you’ve been afraid to grab it. Sometimes figuring out what’s missing is a matter of figuring out the one question you haven’t asked yourself yet.
Which brings me to one of my final questions for you:
What is the one thing you haven’t asked yourself that, when you reveal the answer, will change your life in a way that is meaningful?
Remember, these questions don’t have to make sense. They just have to make an impact in your brain. When you change the way your brain normally works, you start changing your results.
The process of thought can be stagnant and unchanging, or it can be dynamic with twists and turns to help you figure out solutions to life’s most challenging questions.
And with that, where can you go to have a great day? Oh, that might the actual closing question. Oh well. Remember, “where” can mean a lot of things. It can mean getting in your car or getting in your mind. It can mean going into another room in your house or another feeling in your body.
Interpretation is the most wonderful aspect of all of this, because how you interpret is where you end up. Change your life by changing your focus and altering the way you ask yourself questions.
It’s just one of the ways to figure out what’s missing in your life.
The Final Question
When you say things like, “I feel like there’s something missing, like I am meant for more”, you keep yourself so distanced from taking steps to change your life that you’re lucky if anything ever changes.
What I mean by that is a question like, “What’s missing?” is broad and hard to answer because there are so many answers. But changing it to, “What is something that I could do right now to fulfill my life just a little bit?” is an entirely different approach.
One keeps you in the clouds, and the other grounds you. This is how I approach everything I need to accomplish in my life and why I don’t follow most new age thought processes. Some of the new age teachings encourage positive thinking but little change in behavior.
Positive thoughts can be fantastic motivators for inaction.
When you are thinking positively, there’s little reason to go after what you want because you’re already fine with what you’ve got!
What gets many people is that they’re really not fine with what they’ve got so thinking positively just adds a false layer of belief that hides a want or need that never gets fulfilled. It’s the sugar coating that precipitates denial, creating false hope and unresourceful beliefs that keep what’s missing in your life… missing.
To conclude this article, let me ask you one final question:
What’s really missing in your life that, if you had it right now, tomorrow you’d be able to move forward with what used to be missing, but now fulfilled? Can you go into the future with what was once missing, and feel complete that it fulfills you so much that you can feel empowered now – as you walk into a future knowing you have all the resources you need?
I’ll let you wrap your brain around that one. What may happen is that you find yourself stepping into your power so that you can be firm in your decisions and actions, and as a result, create the life that you want. When you do this, you’ll discover what I already know to be true about you, that you are amazing.