What to think about when it all goes to shit

“The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions.”

Or is it?

Yes, it is. That was a stupid question.

One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to plan what we are going to do when everything turns to shit.

And it will. That’s not me being a pessimist, or not “visualising my ideal reality” or whatever. There will be times when you think the entire world’s to-do list has a single item on it – to shit on you and your dreams.

Obviously, we can’t plan to avoid this. It happens to everyone at some point. We just have to wait our turn, put on our kagool and be ready when it happens.

But be ready HOW exactly and with WHAT?


Questions help direct our thinking and, as such, can help keep us on track when everything around us is falling apart.

When we’re emotionally reacting to something negative, our questions tend to make the situation worse:

“Why does this ALWAYS happen to me?”

“Why does EVERYONE treat me this way?”

When things are going wrong, we tend to exaggerate (and not in a good way, like that time I tried to impress that girl by saying I always put the loo seat down).

The worst time to formulate a question is when you’re emotional and things are going wrong. Like the Christmas episode of Coronation Street, that’s never going to end well.

You need to get all “Blue Peter” about this and have some questions that you prepared earlier.

So, at a time when you’re not blaming the world and hating everyone in it too much, think about some more positive questions you could ask yourself when things spiral out of control.

I’m not thinking of those overly positive, “every cloud…” Instagram posts. That nonsense only tends to feed my anger. What we need is something constructive that helps stop the descent.

Here are some questions I’ve found useful:

“What’s REALLY important here?”

When everything is going wrong, it’s easy to think that everything matters. It doesn’t. So, what REALLY matters? Does it REALLY matter, when it’s 6 feet of snow outside, that you’re 7 minutes late and didn’t pick up a coffee on the way in?

Probably not.

I often struggle to pick out what’s really important, in which case, this question can help:

“Which parts of this am I going to remember in a year/5 years/10 years?”

In “the moment”, everything seems important and urgent. It’s not. The moment is lying to you. I’m sure that, in “the moment”, I had many devastating events at school, though I can’t remember any of them (apart from suddenly remembering the time I forgot my trunks for swimming and had to swim lengths in my Y Fronts – stupid memory association!).

Think about what really matters and then focus on improving that, and ONLY that. The rest can wait.

“How would my best self deal with this?”

I know that this sounds like a new-age hokey kinda question, but I actually really like it.

Comparisons can often be damaging and self-defeating, especially when made against other people, who are playing a different game (or, at least, a different level of the game) than you, but comparing yourself against an older/better version of yourself is empowering – it reinforces the values and character traits you hold important and helps keeps you on track.

You’re not asking how Tony Robbins, Pete Sampras or 1980s pop sensation (and he was a sensation) Limahl would deal with it. You can’t compare yourself to Limahl, no matter how terrible your hairstyle is.

I have far too many questions about every single element of this photo.

When you ask how YOUR best self would deal with a problem, the only answer you can possibly come up with is one that is actionable…

…for you…

…right now.

This is something I’m always looking to get better at, so I’d love to hear your suggestions for questions/affirmations/sayings you keep in the back of your mind for when things go a bit awry.

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