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Why Ask Why?

Why Ask Why?

Why are we here? Why do we get up every morning and aim to achieve something? Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Why ask why?

“Why?”

It’s a powerful question.

Philosophers use it to better understand the human condition and seek out the answers to The Big Question. Scientists use it to cure diseases and The Carpenters once asked it to make a pretty catchy song.

The good news is, we can ask that question ourselves on a regular basis to aid us in the all important mission of getting things done.

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Have you ever sat down to make your to-do list of plan a series of goals without thinking too much about why you’re going undertake a particular task beyond the simple excuse that it just has to be done?

Have you ever found yourself half way through a deadly dull, time-consuming task and suddenly thought what the hell is the point of this?

If not, more power to you. If so, welcome to my world.

Too much to do

I suspect I’m not the only one who has ever found far more on my plate than I can possibly handle. Sprawling To-Do lists, bursting at the seams with endless amount of actions spiralled out of control. Projects which seemed important sat forever half-finished and progress on long-term goals had barely begun.

There was just so much to do. More than I could ever possibly conceive finishing in anything like a manageable time scale  and I had to do all of it.

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I didn’t ever stop to really think about why I had to do something I just knew, even subconsciously, that it had to be done. After all, if I didn’t have to do it, why would the thought even occur to me to scribble it down on a To-Do list?

It created a habit of assigning too high a priority to what were pointless or unnecessary tasks, spending so much time on those tasks that I never had the time to accomplish anything that was really important to me.

That was, quite frankly, insane.

Asking Why

So I stopped. The next time I came to plan out my goals and lay out a To-Do list, I forced myself to think long and hard about why I was planning to do all this stuff.

  • Why is it important that I finish this project?
  • Why is it important that I reply to all those e-mails as soon as possible?
  • Why is this long-term goal on my bucket list?
  • Why do I need to spend my whole day working on something that will ultimately have little benefit?

By employing such thinking every time I came to plan things out, I came to see that I was wasting a great deal of time on things that didn’t really matter, either because priorities had changed, because I’d convinced myself something was important when it really wasn’t  or even because somebody else had said it was important.

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It was the latter bunch that I struggled with the most.

After giving much thought to certain tasks, it turned out that the only reason I had to do something was because it was expected of me by somebody else.

I suspected that those people hadn’t given much thought as to why this had to be done either. On closer inspection, it was an entirely pointless exercise designed to suck time and keep busy. Still, people were expecting this of me. How could I justify not doing it?

I asked another question.

What’s the worse that can happen?

What’s the worst possible thing that can happen if I don’t complete this task? Or, as I so dramatically liked to think of it: Will anybody die if I don’t do this?

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More often than not, it turned out that nobody would die, nothing terrible would happen, and I could therefore feel confident in eliminating that stuff on my list to focus instead on what was really important.

Justification

Of course, there’s a problem which this approach; if we spend enough time thinking about anything we can easily find a million excuses to justify doing, or not doing anything.

That’s why it’s important to be honest, perhaps harsh, with yourself when undertaking this approach. Is this really important? Will it matter in the long run or does it just seem like it right now? Can I delegate this to somebody else? Can I let it go altogether and concentrate on what really matters?

If not, get it done. If so, let it go. The only person you’re really letting down if you don’t ask why is yourself. That way, you’ll have much more time to focus on what really matters to you, like answering the bigger questions in life such as why we’re here, or even why birds suddenly appear.

Featured photo credit:  Gorgeous young brunette in thinking posture via Shutterstock

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Chris Skoyles

Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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