Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

The Most Difficult Question

That question is Why?

It’s a question that many people don’t ask themselves. They don’t ask it because strikes at the heart of their reasons and motivations for doing something or learning something. And if they do ask Why?, often the answer is half hearted at best, or an answer which provides a feeble justification for doing something or taking a particular path.

Why? is such a difficult question that we fool ourselves into believing the trite or stock answers, or feeble justifications, that we come up with. We tend to follow along with the crowd because it’s the easiest thing to do. We continue on because that’s what is expected of us.

If you can’t come up with a compelling answer to the question, then you need to reconsider the reason you’re doing something or the reason you’re trying to learn something. If you can’t, chances are you’re not having fun, you’re not as engaged as you want to be, and you’re not learning or progressing at the pace you’re capable of.

Take the example of a friend of mine. A few months ago, she took up CrossFit. When she talked about CrossFit, she didn’t sound very enthusiastic. Partly because she wasn’t having fun, partly because of the gung ho no pain, no gain attitude that seems to part of modern fitness culture, and partly because she has been plagued by a number of minor injuries since starting.

I asked her why, in light of all those factors, she keeps it up. Her answer was a weak justification based on CrossFit being the so-called latest and greatest, and because it’s good training for me. The problem is that she really wasn’t training for any kind of athletic event.

Asking why got her to think about her motivation more clearly and with more depth. So much so that she’s given up on CrossFit and started learning aikido. She’s having more fun, learning more, and isn’t walking around hurt.

Whether it’s adopting a fitness program, learning a language, learning to code, or adopting a new device or tool you need to ask yourself Why. Not just ask the question, but deeply ponder it. When you do that, you’ll really know whether a course of action is right for you.

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