We’ve written often about the violence comparing ourselves to others brings about, as do the fearful questions of whether we are enough or not. We found a lovely, very simple way to reframe those big existential concerns in The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, which is packed practical wisdom learned from the author’s own lives and work.

Unlike success and failure, contribution has no other side. It is not arrived at by comparison. All at once I found that the fearful question, “Is it enough” and the even more fearful question, “Am I loved for who I am, or for what I have accomplished?” could both be replaced by the joyful question, “How will I be a contribution today?”

…Naming oneself and others as a contribution produces a shift away from self-concern and engages us in a relationship with others that is an arena for making a difference. Rewards in the contribution game are of a deep and enduring kind, though less predictable than the trio of money, fame, and power that accrue to the winner in the success game. You never know what they will be, or from whence they will come.

Asking ourselves, How will I be a contribution today?  softens our sense of things while opening up a feeling of possibility. We’ve found that the question applies equally to ourself in the world as it does to ourself WITH ourself.


Sally Schneider

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3 replies on “Ask This Simple Question to Disarm Your Self-Critical Inner Voice

  1. Yes. I have a talent for writing but a desire that gets in the way of my productivity. If it won’t be the heartbreaking work of staggering genius I desire it to be, perhaps it would be better if I don’t attempt it, and then I can go on imagining what it might be. The thing that is helping me get past this is the idea that perhaps the talent I have isn’t there for me but for someone else. I’m the conduit and I need to get my ego out of the way and let the writing out into the world and into the hands of the person or people it is for. It’s an obligation.

  2. “A desire that gets in the way of my productivity” is an interesting way to put it. I like that you’ve found a way to refocus the desire, or perhaps better put, purpose. Stepping aside and showing up, at the same time.

  3. I’m sloooowly catching up,..
    it feels good(!).

    What a GREAT article!

    I wrote the quote,
    on the tongue of my shoes.
    When walking,
    my feet remind me.

    thanks Sally.

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