3 essential questions to ask at the end of every hard day

Carving out this time helps me know that though I did not live out my day perfectly, I did live it well.

3 essential questions to ask at the end of every hard day

I am a big fan of rhythm and routine–a natural part of my ISFJ, Enneagram 1 personality type. Not rigid and inflexible as in past years, when I lived like the slave rather than the master of my agenda. But a gentle structure that ebbs and flows as needed and generally helps me live purposefully, clearly aligned to my primary goals and values.


An important part of my daily rhythm is to begin and end my days with simple routines designed to support mind, body and spirit health. Nothing fancy and, occasionally, I break “the rules.”

In the evenings I dim the lights and make an herbal tea. I check my menu for the following day; simple, real food is important to us and I like looking ahead to ensure I have what I need and note if there is anything to get started for the following day. I do a 45-second plank, turn off my phone and climb into bed with a book. Easy reading mostly, by the light of my salt lamp, as I want to calm my mind for peaceful rest.

But before I actually read, I lay the book on my chest, take a few deep, slow, calming breaths and ask myself a series of questions to end my day well.

1. What are three things I am grateful for?

I started this life-giving practice in 2011 after reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Expressing gratitude comes easy to me now, like breathing or laughing with my children. But I have walked through darker seasons where I had to fight for gratitude. I struggled to find hope, reluctant to allow myself to feel joy, afraid of what lay around the next bend in the road. Back then this practice was hard work but part of what sustained me as I slowly healed and found my way back to health.

I want to live with my eyes and heart wide open to the amazing beauty of each day. To receive each day as gift, not guarantee. If I look for it, I can find gifts even in the midst of pain, or loss or uncertainty. This doesn’t mean I welcome pain or loss or uncertainty—but now know I have the resilience to walk through the storm and emerge intact.

2. What are two things I did well today?

I work with women both in class settings and one-on-one. Many are open and even eager to begin a practice of gratitude, to begin to notice the small daily gifts that we often take for granted or miss because we are hurting or distracted. But when I ask them to speak words of life over themselves, to notice what they do well, how they shine, we meet resistance. It is so easy to see our struggle or shortcoming but not our beauty or the all the ways we show up and serve and use our strengths on a daily basis. Can you relate?

I only added this question to my evening routine over the past year. And I must admit that my responses require some thought. But as someone who, since childhood, struggled with believing I was enough–so painfully aware of all the ways I never quite measured up—this practice is changing me. Deepening the roots of self-awareness and self-compassion that permit me to step out in calm confidence.

3. What is one thing I would do differently?

Some nights I tell myself that there is not a thing I would do differently given the chance. But more often I can identify something: a word spoken in impatience, too much time on my phone distracted, the way I procrastinated out of fear or forgot to eat because I was busy working. The goal is never to criticize but to notice where I did not live fully aligned to my bigger goals and values.

I choose a growth mindset. I am gentle with myself, compassionate and forgiving as I am with my children or husband. But I am always aware that I get to choose who and how I want to be and that tomorrow is a new gift, a brand new opportunity to become more fully myself.

Though I have never actually timed myself, some days I feel like this practice of asking myself three purposeful questions takes me five minutes, other nights 20. Once in a while I have a desire to rush ahead.

But sacrificing a bit of my precious reading time is so worth it because of how calm and clear I feel afterward. At peace. Content in the knowledge that though I did not live out my day perfectly, I did live it well.

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