November 3, 2011

Understanding Why Is The Key To Decision Making


Several years ago I attended an early childhood education program where I learned about the importance of teaching young children all kinds of things. It was an intensive week-long seminar and the information was unparalleled in helping me understand better the development of the human brain. It also opened my eyes to decision making not only as a parent, but also as a person.

I spent the week learning about “Why”. Sure there were demonstrations and tactical discussions, but they were never the focus. Always focused on “Why”, the program moves parents from being paralyzed by not know what to do for this little, tiny person who’s fully dependent upon us to being empowered by their ability to do anything because they know the “Why” behind the choices.

I’m working on creating a true bucket list. Not just a list of things I want to do “someday”, but a real list of things that I must do before I kick the bucket. And in putting that list together I began to wonder how on earth I would ever accomplish some of the things I was wanting to include. Then I put into action the idea of “Why?”. Why would I choose that particular activity or experience? And in figuring out the why it became crystal clear to me what I was taught 8 years ago at that early childhood development class.

If I know why I’m doing something, the how doesn’t matter. Rather than pull my hair out trying to figure out how, if the “Why?” was compelling enough I’d figure out the how. It’s like the discussion we’ve all had with ourselves about there not being enough time to [fill in the blank!]. For me, it’s exercise. There is no time for exercise. I’m too busy. Yet, I can find time to work constantly and reply to hundreds of emails a day. But I can’t find 30 minutes to care for my own body.

It’s not very complicated, but I can sure ask myself about how I am going to find an extra 30 minutes in my day. And then it dawned on me why some people don’t have this problem. They’ve defined the “Why” and in doing so they gave it a higher priority than reading emails and watching Glee on Hulu. They didn’t plan out how, all they did was figure out why.

When we think of how we deal in crisis, we don’t stop and figure out how because we know why we’re doing whatever it is we’re doing. The fact that there are times when we can move mountains and make decisions without skipping a beat while others we’re nearly paralyzed galvanizes this idea even more.

It’s a paradigm shift, though. Going from ‘How on earth am I going to do this?’ to understanding why you want to do it in the first place is not what most of us have learned. It’s often a hallmark of successful business people, because tactics (the how) are driven by the strategy (the why). We just don’t usually have a strategy. Sometimes we do. Dating is a perfect example. Dating is all about using tactics to meet a strategic goal. It seems funny, but when you think about it it makes sense. (Although, sometimes it may seem a bit stalkerish).

The holidays often bring a lot of stress to people. And it often boils down to either not understanding why we’re doing something or hating why we’re doing it. The discussions about ‘having’ to go to a family gather or being forced to buy gifts for people are so angst-filled and sad. Sure, we do a lot of things we don’t really want to do. And as a parent I sometimes tell BabyGirl that the ‘why’ is because I’m the mom and I said so. But, really, isn’t that a good reason?

I challenge you to rethink some of your limiting thoughts and figure out the why and not focus on the how. If the why is not compelling enough, it doesn’t matter how we’ll do it because we’ll always ways not to. So think back to those days of being young and inquisitive and the million times you’d ask ‘why?’ and try to answer that for yourself when you feel that you just can’t do something.

If the why is important enough, we can always figure out the how!


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