One of the most important questions you can ask yourself, at any point in your life, is “Why?”
A deluge of valuable realizations can dawn as you pause and assess and wonder and, perhaps, make some changes to the way you do things.
We’re not typically encouraged to question the paths we follow, so reaching that point generally doesn’t happen until we’re shocked into pausing and asking, or until we reach a milestone moment (a so-called midlife crisis, or even a quarterlife crisis, which seem to be increasingly common these days). If we’re lucky, that moment of befuddlement leads to a new path that’s better aligned with the goals we actually hope to reach. We ask why, determine why, and then recalibrate our actions around that newly sharpened purpose.
But there are important secondary questions that are often overlooked, even during these moments of clarity and revision.
For instance: Why am I doing this in this particular way?
The way you pursue a goal can be just as important as the goal itself. The journey is often just as or more valuable than the destination, so it’s a good idea to ask yourself whether you want to take the trip on a bike or in a canoe or via teleporter. Whether you want to pursue your dream of curing cancer by taking the traditional medical professional career track, or through some asymmetric, outsider approach.
The answer to this question can influence a great deal of what you do day to day, and how much you enjoy the pursuit of something you consider to be important. It can also determine the shape of your outcomes, and who you evolve into along the way.
Another question: How will I sustain myself?
This isn’t a fun question for most people. It’s a true bummer to decide that you want to travel the world and then be forced to work out your expenses and income, your assets and liabilities. To address our debts. But sustaining ourselves, whatever path we might take, is necessary. And that means ensuring our income covers our expenses—plus more than that, ideally.
We also need to ensure our paths are sustainable physically and psychologically. It’s not uncommon to plan out a superhuman route to a goal we want to accomplish, only to find partway through that continuing at that pace will destroy our health. Or that operating without backup, without some kind of sturdy support system and periodic breaks, is making us feel alone and depressed.
For a lifestyle to be sustainable, it needs to be doable over the long-haul. That means taking a lot of not-so-fun, not-so-Instagrammable aspects of your planned route into account.
Finally: How will I know it’s time to ask “Why” again?
If we’re lucky, we have the good fortune to question and pivot in this way a few times over the course of our lives. But it’s possible to build this type of big picture questioning into your life on a more regular basis.
What this requires is a periodic excuse to step back from daily rituals and routines so that you can assess your broader concerns.
What works for me is taking twenty minutes a day to do absolutely nothing. To just sit quietly, with no music or other distractions, and either close my eyes or stare at the wall. I just allow myself to think about anything at all, with no set goals or specific motivations, beyond allowing myself to mentally step back and just be for a while.
During these breaks, I will often be reminded of the bigger picture. I’ll address smaller, day to day things as well, but because there’s time, and I know I’m not going anywhere, not rushing to do anything else, I can afford to check in and see if what I’m doing—the bigger picture guiding those day to day actions—still makes sense for who I am and what I believe and what I want to accomplish.
Getting to that “Why?” moment is, unto itself, a very valuable thing.
Expanding on that question and asking it over and over, acting upon what you learn, can be even more beneficial in terms of living the most you-shaped life possible.
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