Returning to Why

Many of us, at some point in our lives, have reason to pause, take stock, and ask ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it the way we doing it.

This can lead to sudden pivots, educational missteps, valuable recalibrations, and fundamental changes in the way we perceive ourselves.

There are externally catalyzed milestones that can trigger such moments—quarter- and mid-life crises come to mind—but it’s possible to instigate such thinking intentionally, as well.

Doing so can be particularly valuable when our circumstances, global and personal, are changing rapidly.

In early 2020, over the course of just a few months, work, school, and social norms have all changed to varying degrees as a result of variables beyond our control.

Do those changes mean we should make new plans when it comes to our education? Should we stick with the same habits and social arrangements we’ve always had?

Should we attempt reinforce our existing professional trajectories based on these new, altered variables? Are our intended career paths even still feasible? Still desirable? Or have other paths, optimized for other priorities, opened up?

The world around us has changed, in some cases subtly, in some cases dramatically.

Some of these changes will be temporary, others will be permanent. Some shifts have already introduced a new resting state, while others merely gesture at multi-tined forks in the road, each path leading to potential new normals that won’t arrive for many years, at the earliest.

If we don’t allow ourselves to change, or at least consider doing so, as well, we may find ourselves prepared and preparing for a reality, for a future, that no longer exists.

Any change of this kind, unasked for and unanticipated, can be difficult. And that’s true whether it’s the result of a global pandemic, a whiz-bang new technology, or a change in relationship status.

Change is hard, and mourning the loss of our planned-for futures is a weighty component of that difficulty.

Being adaptable to new circumstances, though, is prudent in both the natural world and within human society.

Consciously checking in with our expectations and assumptions when the ground has shifted makes it less likely that we’ll make decisions and plans based on outdated information, no-longer-relevant suppositions, and weakened conjectural foundations.

Semi-regular check-ins with ourselves about why we’re doing what we’re doing, and how we’re doing those things, are a good habitual investment of time and energy, no matter our personal circumstances and the shape of the world around us.

But why-related assessments are even more valuable during periods of rapid and dramatic change.

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