Why do we do what we do?

Sometimes we are so used to doing the things we do everyday, month, year that we lose track of why we are doing them.

When something crops up that you think you need to do or should do it’s a good idea sometimes to ask yourself why am I doing this? This is especially important if you have a niggling doubt that your reasons are less than healthy.

If this throws up more confusion then you simply need to ask “why?” again and then again and again after that until you get to the root cause of the issue.

The fact is that many of the things we do in life are for reasons other than progressing our own happiness or freedom. They are quite often done for reasons of competition i.e. competing with our fellow humans for recognition; an effort to be recognised, praised and appreciated. This is however, just another form of clinging; the greatest health problem in humanity.

This leads many of us to live a life that is incomplete, unfulfilled and miserable. You might experience this as just getting on with the daily drudgery.

Asking yourself the simple question “why am I doing this?” can open up a world of freedom and lift a huge weight from your shoulders. It can also suddenly open up a huge expanse of free time that you can start to use for other more constructive activities. It is also the way to find what you are truly passionate about and might help you to identify what it is exactly you want to do with your life.

This is an extreme form of mindfulness that you can use to correct things that have niggled at you for your whole life to date.

Remember, if the first “why?” doesn’t get you to the bottom of the problem, just keep asking why? over and over again. Here is an example:

You suddenly think you better learn a bit of Chinese (I recently did). So you would simply ask:

Q. Why do I want to learn to speak Chinese? A. Because it would be good to know a bit of the Chinese language.
Q.Why would that be good? A. Because I would have a second language that would be quite impressive.
Q. Why would that be good? A. Because I could impress people with my new language skills
Q. Why do you want to impress people? A. Because I don’t get the recognition I deserve.

BINGO: you don’t want to learn Chinese to simply help with speaking to Chinese people, you want to learn Chinese to get recognition from others who cant speak Chinese. This is the wrong reason to learn Chinese.

This is of course an over simplified example and you might have to ask many more whys to get to the root of a problem. And of course this doesn’t just apply to new things that crop up, but probably more importantly to things you already do…you’ll be surprised.

This doesn’t mean its wrong to learn the skill, but it points to a problem with your self esteem and putting the effort and time in to something for the wrong reasons is just going to make you feel even worse about yourself.

Stop competing, ask yourself why and start living the life you want to.

Photo thanks to Patrick Wilken via Compfight