If there’s one question that we have no problem asking of others but shy away from like the plague when it comes to asking ourselves, it’s this.
From the time we were young children we’ve wanted to know why from from everyone else, haven’t we? Just spend some time around a 3 – 7 year old and you’ll hear them ask Why? 100 times if they ask it once.
If you ask them to pick their toys up, they ask why?
If you tell them to brush their teeth, they ask why?
If you ask them to quit asking why?, they ask why?
We hate being asked why, don’t we? Why is that? (Ha ha. Got you there, didn’t I?)
Another question we’re very good at is asking What?
We are so familiar with the question of what. We can answer those type of questions all day long.
I’m going to mow the lawn.
I go cycling three times a week.
I brush my teeth.
I’m going to lose 10 lbs.
We can answer what questions easily because they are usually visible. Just looking at someone, you can see what they’re doing. You see them putting gas in the mower and then pulling the cord. You see them walking the mower back and forth across the lawn.
You can see me on my bike three times a week either riding through the woods or around the neighborhood.
The question of “what?” is easy to answer. So is the next question.
We’re even better at “how?” questions. Everyone has an opinion about how something should be done.
Mowing the grass is easy, right? Oh, but you should mow in a criss-cross pattern this time. Use a riding mower instead of a push mower. Don’t use a gas mower, get an electric one.
How we do something is the method we use. We get these from reading articles on best practices, learning it from our parents, hearing about it from a friend. There’s myriad ways you can accomplish something. As my Ma Ma used to say, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” (Apologies to the cat lovers out there, but seriously…did people really do this?)
The next question can be easy or hard to answer depending on the person.
When you’re going to do something or an event is going to take place is an important question to answer.
Some things have to be done at certain times such as…. Now.
There are people that are better at answering “when” questions than others. People who are highly organized and plan everything often know when they’re going to do something. Individuals like me who haven’t always been regimented about planning and sometimes are prone to procrastinate have a harder time coming up with the when at times.
When is easy to see too. You can see when something is being done. All you have to do is look.
Then there’s the question that sometimes matters and sometimes doesn’t. That question is Where?
Where you’re going to do something depends on the previous three questions of what, how and when.
Take mowing the grass for example. You wouldn’t start up your mower and then push it over to your neighbors house and mow their yard, would you? (Sometimes you might, but stick with me here). You’d mow your yard.
There are other things such as riding my bike that can vary. I can ride it around the block or pack it up and ride it somewhere else. I can ride it through the woods or just up and down my driveway.
Then there’s a where question such as, “Where are you going to live?” Sometimes the where is practical and sometimes it’s not. We may want to live close to where we work or where the kids go to school. We may want to live in a trendy neighborhood or town and commute to school or work.
Where questions come easy for us.
What?, How?, When? and Where?
If you answer the questions of what, how, when and where you have quite a bit of information. Most of the time that’s all you get and most of the time that’s all you need if you’re asking other people the questions.
But if you ask yourself, there’s one piece of information that is missing.
Asking ourselves why is one of the hardest questions to do sometimes.
Because we have dig deep to explore our motivations.
I say sometimes the question of why is hard because sometimes it’s not.
I can answer why I mow my yard easily. The grass was getting too tall and I want the yard to look nice.
I ride my bike because I love cycling and need the exercise.
I brush my teeth so they last a long time. I don’t want to be wearing dentures in my later years.
Then there are other why questions that are harder to answer.
Why do you work where you do? Is it for the money? Really? Is it fulfilling? Does the company mission tie into what you believe?
If you have your own business, why did you start your company? Was it for the money and the freedom? Ha ha. I hope not. Those are not two things you put together in the same sentence as starting your own business. There can be money and there can be freedom, but not like most people think.
Start With Why
One of the best books I’ve read so far this year is “Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action” by Simon Sinek. In his book, he says:
“Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes.”
The why behind what you do is like an anchor that keeps you centered. Knowing the why behind a goal or a task is what keeps you going when the going gets tough.
Goals aren’t just goals when you have a why to anchor them.
Give it a try. If you’ve written down or thought of some goals you’d like to reach in the future, write down the why behind each of them. Knowing the why will bring clarity to the goal. If you can’t think of a why maybe it’s not a goal that you should pursue. Clarity is power.