Inside: For years I’ve asked myself these 3 purposeful questions before bed to help me check in and end my day well.
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 servant rather than the master of my agenda. But a gentle structure that ebbs and flows as needed and generally helps me live on purpose, intentionally, clearly aligned to my primary goals and values.
An important part of my daily rhythm is to begin and end my days on purpose with simple routines designed to support mind, body and spirit health. Simple, ‘portable’ morning and evening routines are also a way to decrease stress in chaotic times or to help your body recalibrate in hard seasons.
Portable and simple means that you can take them pretty much anywhere – they don’t require much in the way of tools or other rigid requirements. The entire morning or evening routine takes maybe 25 mins at most (though you can add on time on days where that works and feels good) so the demand on time or capacity is low, yet the impact is great.
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My evening routine includes 3 purposeful questions
My precise evening routine usually includes about 5 primary habits. The particulars change over time but it tends to look something like this:
I dim the lights and do a quick check in with the day ahead to know my priorities and make sure I haven’t missed anything important.
I do some form of movement for a minute or two: when I wrote this post that was a 45-second plank and these days is often a stretch on my foam roller.
I take supplements and climb into bed with an herbal tea to enjoy some me-time – it used to always be with a book but the past several years more often included an audiobook or Netflix on a timer. It has to be something that turns my brain off rather than revs it up. (There are seasons of grief or trauma where our brain doesn’t work the same way and we need to flex and release judgment as we figure out what can work for us as we heal.)
Then, before I get too sleepy, 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.
the 3 PURPOSEFUL QUESTIONS I ASK MYSELF EACH NIGHT
1. What are 3 things I am grateful for?
I started this life-giving practice in 2011 after reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. Expressing gratitude has many health benefits and comes easily to me now, like breathing or laughing with my children. I also weave gratitude into my morning routine.
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 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. Don’t misunderstand; I do not welcome pain or loss or uncertainty but now know I have the resilience to walk through the storm and emerge intact.
2. What are 2 things I did well today?
I work with women in class settings and one on one. Many are open and even eager to begin a practice of gratitude, to begin noticing and naming 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, there is 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.
I must admit that my responses to this question require some thought though with years of practice it’s gotten easier to name all the things I do well. 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. I’m deepening my roots of self-awareness and self-compassion and this permits me to step out in calm confidence.
3. What is 1 thing I could 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 3 purposeful questions takes me five minutes, other nights twenty. 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.
For years I’ve asked myself these meaningful, purposeful questions at night to end my way with intention – I keep at it because I notice the benefit to my life. It tends to be the small habits practiced with consistency that help build a life worth living.