I had a conversation with my parents and we were discussing what everything really comes down to in the end and what question would get us there. What is the one question that puts all others to shame?

We had a few ideas:

1. Why?

It’s a question that you can ask in any situation and it will reveal the motivation behind whatever you or anyone else is doing. In fact, if you keep asking why, you cannot help but find out what is causing you to do something. Try it. Ask yourself why. Then keep asking it.

It’s often much more interesting interviewing yourself rather than other people. We are all fascinated by ourselves. Other people are just a well-intentioned afterthought. If you think I’m lying, answer me this:

When you see a group photo which you are in, who do you look at first?

Ha — got ya!

“Why” is a revealing word and often the best lie detector out there if you use it wisely. Don’t be stubborn with it, be cunning. Why I hear you ask? Because the better the question the better the answer, and we don’t want bad answers.

It’s true for everything actually. What you put in you get out.

Ask a shitty question, get a shitty answer.

Speak bullshit, hear bullshit.

Gossip, be gossiped about.

Lie, be lied to.

Ying, yang.

Lemon, lemonade.

Orange, orange juice.

Vegetable, green juice.

I could go on…and I will.

Put in the work, get the results.

Don’t ask, don’t get.

Change your focus, change your energy.

Our world is full of these balanced expressions and it’s not a coincidence that we use them.

“Why” is how we find the truth.

Clichés are annoying, but only because they’re true.

2. How can I best do -X- ?

This is a brilliant question. I’d go so far as to call it a “life hack”. That’s supposedly what everyone wants nowadays. I should have included that in my title.

This “life hack” will revolutionise the way you approach anything in your life.

How can I best serve others? How can I best approach this situation? How can I best be a parent? How can I best prepare for my exams?

Similar to “The One Thing”, by asking this question you immediately open your mind to finding the best possible way to accomplish anything. It forces your brain to change the focus and come up with a new approach, and it always does.

Employ this question.

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3. What do I want my story to be?

This is it. This is the one question that puts all others to shame.

My life story. The story I tell myself. The story I tell others.

What illusion do I want to create and live in?

It’s all an illusion really. You just have to see it for what it is and use it.

Recently I had a small epiphany whilst listening to Alan Watts speaking about materialism. I realised that almost everything of “value” in this world is an illusion.

Money — illusion. University — illusion. School — illusion. Exams — illusion. Banking — illusion. Internet — illusion. iPhone — illusion. TV — illusion. The Law — illusion. Business — illusion. Prizes/awards — illusion. Police — illusion. Stock market — illusion. Google — illusion.

So much of what we value is just reflection of what we have been told is of “value”.

University is important so you should go there. Hmmmm. I think it’s merely a figment of the imagination. The certificate: a piece of card with some shiny letters and a stamp and someone’s signature to signify the hundreds of thousands of £$€ you put in over four years of your life.

The numbers in your bank account, which don’t actually exist except for when you take out pieces of paper with someone’s face and a number on.

Everything only has value if we believe so.

Someone way back when came up with a fantastic idea; I’ll make some paper and put a number on it and use it to buy something of real and tangible value. And everyone will “buy into” this illusion and somewhere along the line they will forget that it is just that: a story!

Now, with that rant done I implore you, whatever your beliefs, to ask yourself what story you are living? Is it yours? Do you like it? Are you the hero or the tragic failure? Are you the weak victim or the charismatic leader? Who do you want to be?

You decide on the story you tell yourself and the story you tell yourself decides your life.

Choose wisely and remember that somewhere along the road you made that choice. You might have been influenced by parents, society, big brother, the conspiracy theorists, religion, dogmatists and many others, but you made that decision.

What story are you telling yourself and do you want to be part of it?

If not, make a new one. Be creative. Be bold. Fake it till you make it. (There’s a cliché!)

It’s never too late to start anew. (And another… still true though!)

“Your past doesn’t define your future unless you live there.” -Tony Robbins

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Originally published at medium.com