Ten Important Questions

questionThese are the questions I’m asking myself these days, trying to come to grips with why, now that my life is idyllic, now that I have the time and opportunity to do anything I want, I’m sitting here, doing nothing, my hands turned up, feeling fearful, disconnected, directionless.

These are no-escape questions: No closed-ended “yes or no” questions. No hypothetical “if’s” that I can safely answer knowing that the “if” is just a fiction (“What if I had only 37 days to live?”) and no “why’s”, the answers to which are probably just excuses.

I’ve answered these questions for myself, but my answers aren’t the point of posting these questions. Probably best we all keep our answers to these questions to ourselves anyway: Private answers are likely to be more honest.

So here are the questions:

  1. Who am I, really? Behind the veneer, behind the ego, beneath the roles that I play, behind who I pretend to be, who I think I want to be — who am I? What’s my sense of myself? Not what I do, or what I think or believe, or what adjectives I apply to myself, or what I associate myself with (vegan, poly, radical, naturalist). What really motivates me, what frightens me, what drives me to do what I do, what stresses me and stops me from acting, what am I really good at and not good at? How do I really feel about myself? What are the stories I continue to tell myself even though all stories are fiction? What am I addicted to, without judgement as to whether that addiction is good or bad (sugar, sexual fantasy, TV, shopping, “stuff” and the work of taking care of that “stuff”, escapist music/movies, love, comfortable escapist job, the approval and attention and appreciation of others, etc.)?
  2. What do I really care about? Not what I think I should care about. What keeps me awake at night, including things that scare me and things I’m ambivalent about what, if anything, I could do to make things better (factory farms, climate change, poverty, war)? What do I really want to do before I die, even things I lack the courage to try (hang gliding, to sense what it would feel like to fly like a bird)?
  3. What am I really accomplishing? Viewed from the perspective of someone else looking objectively at my actions, is what I am doing important, purposeful, achieving anything enduring, aligned with what I want to do, with who I am? What, of the things I’m doing, follow Pollard’s Law (We do what we must, then we do what’s easy, and then we do what’s fun.)?
  4. Of the things I do now, what could I stop doing? Do I know what I have to keep doing, and what I could let go? How much of what I do is just because I’m caught up in routine, or living up to others’ expectations?
  5. What could I live comfortably without? How much of what I do is to acquire, or keep, stuff I don’t really need? Why am I so afraid to let that stuff go?
  6. What does the world need from me now? Not stuff that I want to give that the world doesn’t really need or want. Not stuff I don’t want to give, or don’t think I’m competent or ready to give.
  7. What’s holding me back? I’m not who I think I want to be, and I’m not doing what I think I want to do. But things, I’ve learned, are the way they are for a good reason. What’s the good reason I am who I am, and the good reason I’m doing what I’m doing (and not doing what I’m not doing)?
  8. What’s really holding me back? This is the Byron Katie twist on question 7 (or for that matter, any of these questions.) Do I really know that what I said in my response to question 7 is true? What if it weren’t?
  9. What one simple thing could I do, in the next 24 hours, that would just get me started towards learning or doing something I always wanted to learn or do?
  10. What would it take for me to accept myself as I really am? How can I accept myself without needing affirmation from others that that’s OK?

Answering these questions was a pretty sobering experience for me. In some cases I don’t yet have very good, or clear, answers. I’m going to try to draw a self-portrait that shows me as I portrayed myself in my answer to question 1. Should be interesting.

And I’ve put my answer to question 2 on my laptop, alongside my Six Principles, to look at whenever I decide, as I do often these days, what to do next, and how to go about it.

And beneath them, I’ve written question 8.

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12 Responses to Ten Important Questions

  1. Pingback: Ten Important Questions - Dave Pollard at Chelsea Green

  2. Tim says:


    I enjoyed reading your questions. I too had many questions and will continue to have them. One resource I was introduced to is Sakyong Mipham’s book “Turning the Mind into an Ally”. He addresses many of the questions you’ve stated above. If you haven’t read it, it may give you a new perspective on your questions.



  3. mariella says:

    Dear DAve… On one hand….you are so so energetic…. that I guess sometimes you have some extra energy that you can’t keep inside of you and you need to invent a place where to put it… just relax… you’ve gone through so many changes since I first met you…. ! On the other hand…. these moments when one feels like standing in a void… who am i, where do I go… and so on… I think are the prelude of a new understanding…. our brain is searching for something hidden in our inside and in the outside that have to connect… and it does not know what it is… Ha, ha … just relax, don’t struggle… it will crystallize soon … it always does… just don’t distract your brain with too many questions….love…m

  4. Wendy Farmer-O'Neil says:

    Nice list. Once you’ve chewed question 1 over pretty well, i highly recommend, “What am I?” for seconds. Another one i’ve been finding profitable lately: What am i really afraid of? In the same spirit as question 8, of course. Then there’s always, what if, in the presence of adequate and skilled support, i risked the loss of sanity and actually faced what truly terrifies me?

    I now have a guest cabin if you ever get tired of your idyllic island and feel like visiting mine. Blessings sojourner. May your path be twisted and filled with enough thorns, pits, rocks, ditches, and unwary strangers to be fruitful.


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  6. cindy says:

    I don’t think you are doing nothing … you are writing, making up this list … all these involved thinking. Thinking generally leads to planning. What I do see is, you are not yet reach the place where you want, or feel comfortable to be.

    It is tough at our age to change direction. Be kind to yourself and be happy you can afford to do ‘nothing’. 8 years ago I stopped work first to take care of my own health, then my husband’s and mine. I felt lost, useless, unwanted. I still feel the same but these days I am happy to be able to do the things that I always wanted to do but never had the chance while I was employed, had an income and doing ‘more important’ projects etc.

    Be happy. Doing nothing or doing something is all in your mind. Perhaps we assumed doing something equate to doing something important or prestigies in the eyes of others, most importantly we equate with income. Think Buddism. Is a bless to feel nothingness.


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  8. Rob Paterson says:

    Dear Dave
    Wondering – Who do you really care about now? Might this be the starting point for all the rest?
    Much love Rob

  9. Vivekananda says:

    Dear Dave,

    I have been following you for years, and years. Your contributions in the knowledge management area, entrepreneurship, and your trials, and tribulations of your personal life are fresh in my mind. In some sense, you are like a family member to me, although you have never known me. I am sure many, many can say the same.

    Yes, I know that we have to act with the right intentions. After all these years (more than four decades), to be in love, and be loved seems to be the most calming, and steady state of life.

    I wonder how humans expressed, and verbalized their anguish, emotional, and intellectual transformations particularly in the later years of their lives hundreds of thousands of years back.

    Is the attitude of letting things just be, along with selfless actions a sign of lack of courage or a sign of having made the peace?

    If alone, I think that spending time in nature working on the land producing food for sustenance spending time with all sorts of other living organisms might bring meaning.

    These are my simple thoughts.

    Your admirer.

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