Questions to Ask When the World Isn’t Going Your Way

Even on the path to your ideal world, things don’t always go the way you would like them to. All of us learn of bad news from time to time. The stock market will crash, or an expected job opportunity will disappear. Something that has always been easy suddenly becomes hard.

It happens all the time, and it helps to be prepared to deal with challenges before they arrive. Asking yourself the following questions will help you refocus and know how to move forward when something isn’t going the way you wish it was.

Where is my security?

This is a good time to realize that your security should not be in tangible things. If your security is money, you will always be threatened by the possibility of losing it. You will likely not be satisfied with the amount of money you have, and your emotions may be affected by the fluctuations of your bank account.

A better security lies in knowing who you are and what you want to do in life. Therefore, the next important question gets at those answers.

Where is my identity?

Who are you? What are you here for? What do you want to do, ultimately? Your identity should shape everything about you—how you spend your time, your work, your priorities, and everything else. Check out the books Finding Your Own North Star and Wishcraft for some good life planning ideas.

If you already have a good idea of who you are, now is a good time to remind yourself of that image. If you can center in on what’s important to you in the midst of bad news, and that image brings you comfort, you know you’re doing something right. Hard times will pass, but your “north star” will still be there.

Can I change the terms of this situation?

There are two kinds of challenges: those where you can take action to remedy the situation, and those where you are relatively powerless. It’s always good to know which kind of challenge you are facing. If you can influence the situation for the better, you can then make a plan for change. If you can’t, then you can move to a plan for acceptance of the bad news.

If the stock market crashes, you probably can’t fix that yourself. But you can change your investment strategy, get out of the stock market altogether, decide to be a true long-term investor and not worry about it, or do any number of other things to change the terms of the situation.

Who else is affected by this situation?

You are usually not the only one affected when something in your life goes off track. Make a mental list of who else is dealing with the effects of bad news. If you really can’t change the terms of the situation, maybe you can at least help someone else. This is especially important when the event that caused you hardship is completely out of your hands. The bad news may be out of your hands, but if other people are also affected, you can probably do something to help them.


Every morning I ask myself two questions:

1) How am I feeling?

2) What do I want?

I sometimes use these as journal prompts, and sometimes I just think about them briefly while writing out my projects and tasks for the day. I find that by asking myself the questions, it causes me to realize things that were not actively on my mind before I started.

I often want productivity. I want to get things done, and move ahead on projects. In those cases, the answer to my “What do I want?” question involves making a list of what I want to accomplish. I base this list on the two or three most important projects on my mind that day, and I find that if I am able to complete them or at least make good progress during the day, I’ll feel better later.

Sometimes I want something completely different, and by thinking about these questions, I may realize that I don’t feel very productive. I may need to rest, or exercise, or go to the coffee shop. I may need to spend more time reading and journaling.

When the world isn’t going your way, recognize that it’s usually a temporary state. Getting through it and back on track to your ideal world may not be easy, but if you’ve set big goals for yourself (along with goals that involve helping others), you can usually make it happen. Others are counting on you.

And you owe it to yourself, too.


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  • Scott says:

    Another thought provoking post Chris.

    I identify with the advice on trying to recognise that tough times are a passing phase and that focussing on goals for the future helps get us out of the bad situation.

    Sometimes it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees but it does appear- eventually

  • Kathryn says:

    If you haven’t read “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude” then there is no time like the present. It (and other books like it) help you to focus on the positive possibilities of everything that you face.

    I try to surround myself with positive and uplifitng things that I run across or that I receive. I keep it all in one corner next to my desk. It’s my “inspiration corner.”

  • Hey Chris!
    Just found your blog today through the NY Times online website!

    Another great book in the same vein of “Who are you? What do you want to do” is: “Making a Living Without a Job” by Barbara Winter

    As I’m working at my life, & things are not going as planned I TRY & remember “This too shall pass”….having friends around at those times helps A LOT! 🙂


  • Jacob says:

    Fabulous post Chris. This will definately help me when I’m stuck. I especially like the idea of asking “What do I want today?” What a good way to start identifing how to move forward.

  • Psiplex says:


    Very well thought out. Today I was relating to my dear friend these same concepts. He is undergoing some horrendous stressors in his life and I just wanted him to know how important it is to just be himself. Knowing him for 10 years has been so significant as he has taught me the true meaning of what a friend is. He is the same when he is on top or not.

    I hist wanted to return some good energy by letting him know that it isn’t what he owns or his title that makes him important and makes him valuable and a friend. Not of that is really meaningful. The treasure w have in life is not tangible but the love and honor given to us by our loved ones and others and how we can give from our hearts some measure of love back.

    I applaud you for this wonderful post!

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you for being explicit and holding nothing back. I began to read this post and wanted to start crying because I am there. And this was the kick in the butt that I needed. Chris, I appreciate your boldness to lay it out on the line and not accept mediocrity and challenge those that have entered into your world to Do Something about their lives. (I also just finished reading about ‘how rich I am’ . . . and a few other archives) I look forward to reading so much more on your site.

  • Monica Ramos says:

    Years later and I’m STILL referencing this post and sending my clients and course members here. Timeless value in these words, Chris!

  • trouble tank says:

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  • This is a good time to realize that your security should not be in tangible things. If your security is money, you will always be threatened by the possibility of losing it. You will likely not be satisfied with the amount of money you have, and your emotions may be affected by the fluctuations of your bank account.

  • Amit says: : Your world of lyrics of Indian songs from movies and music albums in different languages.

  • temple run 2 says:

    Yet some things never change. The customs guy asks to see my wallet for an inspection of cash, then holds on to it, testing me. “You have something to give me?” he asks. I tell him I have my approved visa that has already been paid for, but he continues to look at me.

  • Arijit says:

    Extremely good post, i love to read this. Thank you for being explicit and holding nothing back.

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