The Ultimate Question: Can I Do Something In This Situation?
Growth

The Ultimate Question: Can I Do Something In This Situation?

I use this a lot when I’m facing a situation that is paralysing. The idea is to either force an explanation for the inaction or force action. The in-between is the limbo we should get out of as soon as we can.

No time? Listen to it instead

For the first post of this year, I wanted to talk about one idea I’ve borrowed from everything I’ve ever read. I genuinely feel it’s a collective wisdom that I’ve distilled into just one question which I call the ultimate question.

It’s can I do something in this situation? It goes from there, and it helped me not only make sense of the last year alone but every year in my life so far. I use it to get out of the limbo of inaction.

Locus of Control

A while ago, I talked about the locus of control. I also wrote about how the ideal locus of control should be slightly towards the internal but not entirely internal. This question stems from the same logic. If you’ve read that older article, you might get this already.

When you ask yourself that question in the heat of the moment, you’re essentially shifting your locus of control to exactly where it should be: slightly off-centre, towards the internal.

The only two ways that question can be answered is in Yes or No.

If I say Yes, then, I ask myself another question.

What’s Stopping Me?

The answer is usually a story. It’s a story or narrative that has the crucial reason hidden somewhere inside it. The reason is sometimes ego, and sometimes it’s similar history or bias. The more you open that story up, the more you can understand where your inaction is coming from.

If you can honestly answer that, you can go further and do the thing.

A Quick Note

Now, “the thing” is a vast generalization. It could range from something work or hobby related. It could be something as simple as texting or calling an old friend. It could be reaching out to someone when you need to, or doing a favour for someone.

However, once you understand your narrative, you can easily do whatever you need to do to do the thing or decide that you do not want to or really can’t do it. At which point, you can and should try to let it go.

The clarity of your conscious choice will also rid you of the stress of inaction.

What If?

If I say No to the original question, there’s a straightforward course of action: let it go. If there’s practically nothing you can do about a situation, and if it’s just something that exists outside the purview of your control, you have to let it go.

The simple truth in life is: you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

The Nudge

If you’re stuck in inaction, there’s only one thing you need to ask yourself. I call it the ultimate question. It’s can I do something about this situation? If you answer yes, understand your narrative for why you can’t act. Is it your ego? Is it lack of skill? Is it history with something similar? Once you understand that, the action (or inaction) becomes more manageable. If the answer to the original question is no, then let it go. You can’t affect everything.


If you liked this post, you’ll like the newsletter which also reminds you of the previous week’s post. Also, if you’re absolutely inclined, consider buying me a coffee from that button down there to help support this website. Most important of all, please take care of yourself and those around you. These are trying times and I wish you all the health in the world.

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