How to boost your life satisfaction (6 Daily Questions)


“Fate is the hand of cards we’ve been dealt. Choice is how we play the hand.” – Dr. Marshall Goldsmith

What to do

Boost your life satisfaction by asking yourself 6 daily questions.

Why it works

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is an author and executive coach. His books have sold millions of copies and include the New York Times bestsellers “The Earned Life”, “Triggers”, and “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”. He’s similarly influential and successful as a coach. One of the pioneers in the use of 360-degree feedback, he has been ranked the number one executive coach in the world, and works with the CEOs of companies like Novartis, Ford and The Coca-Cola Company. 

In his research with over 2,500 people, he found that asking oneself 6 questions each day significantly boosts life satisfaction. Each question starts with “Did I do my best to…” which makes it impossible to blame others. By asking yourself these questions each night, you’ll become more aware of and deliberate about putting your values into practice. Thus, you’ll align your daily actions with what really matters – and boost your life satisfaction.

Below are Dr. Goldsmith’s six daily questions – together with some of the best methods I know for making them work for you every day.

How to do it

1) Did I do my best to set clear goals? In my experience, 95% of people don’t set clear goals. However, productivity isn’t about squeezing in more things, but doing the right things; without goals, you’ll be lost. So, set three daily goals each morning. Then, timebox your day to pursue them. I explain how exactly to pull that off in this article.

2) Did I do my best to make progress toward goal achievement? Put in at least one session of deep focus on accomplishing your daily goals. Follow our 30-3-11 Rule and pick one of three times to focus deeply: ~30 minutes after waking, ~3 hours after waking, or ~11 hours after waking. These times are when you’re best able to focus (due to your “circadian rhythm”). Learn more about optimizing for deep focus here.

3) Did I do my best to be happy? “The frequency and the quality of our contact with other people are two major predictors of happiness.”, according to Prof. Robert Waldinger, the director of Harvard’s 85-year study on happiness. The key to having healthy and balanced relationships is what he calls social fitness, which can be built via seven keystones. Learn more about these here.

4) Did I do my best to find meaning? Here’s a counterintuitive way to increase meaning in your life: embrace stress. How? Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal has a way of thinking about stress that I love: “Stress is what arises when something you care about is at stake”. She also has a terrific method for using stress to grow both professionally and personally – and thus making it meaningful: stress goals. Learn more about stress goals and how to set them here.

5) Did I do my best to build positive relationships? As I’ve explained above, this one will make both the people around you and yourself happier. So grab lunch with a loved one. Have coffee with a friend. Short on time? Give them a call. For more ideas on building positive relationships day in and day out, check out my article on Prof. Waldinger’s seven keystones of social fitness here

6) Did I do my best to be fully engaged? Let’s face it: being fully engaged all day is fiendishly hard. An excellent method for staying engaged throughout hectic and stressful days is Gretchen Rubin’s Four Quarters Method. By dividing your day into four quarters, you never get to write off an entire day, but only a quarter of it – before starting fresh again in the next one. In short, you’ll get four shots to ace your day and be fully engaged instead of one. If you want to learn more about the method, read this.

If you want to start answering the six questions daily, download this post as a PDF document — by switching to full-screen mode in the lower-right corner and then clicking the download symbol in the upper-right one.

Then, print slides 3-8 on one page and score yourself on the 6 questions for 6 consecutive nights. I’ve done this for the last 6 days, and it works like a charm.

Give it a try and let me know how it went.