Doing things for the why

Ask yourself why you do things.

December 08, 2017

As the year draws to a close, the progress made toward goals and the accomplishments they have led to, have been on my mind. While setting my end of year goals several months back, I asked myself what I wanted to accomplish, and how to go about doing it. Most of the goals revolved around the skills and habits I’ve needed to work on for a long time but haven’t. By setting definite goals around what to do and how to do it, the hope was to finally make these things a part of my daily life.

Some days while checking off the box for the daily activity related to a goal, the question would pop into my mind, why am I doing this goal? What’s the reason behind why this is important enough to spend time on it every day. Some days the answer would justify not doing a specific task for a goal. The real why for that goal hadn’t been set in my mind. It just seemed important. But through working on each goal, the why behind them was made clear, which has helped both in the accomplishing of the goals, and the decision as to which ones should continue into the new year.

One such goal was to finish the room I’m currently working on in our basement. I’m not a construction person by any means, and the work so far has not been very enjoyable. While the end result is fulfilling, the process is tedious and sometimes very frustrating. Every day after work, while getting ready to work downstairs, I remind myself of why we decided to refinish our basement. When we bought the house, we knew we got it for the price we did because of the basement. In order to get out of the house easily and on to where we want to go next when the time comes, the basement needed to be refinished. On top of that, we wanted a basement we enjoyed being in, not one that was a constant eyesore.

If you pay attention to the news, you most likely have heard of Bitcoin and how its price has skyrocketed in the last month. Several coworkers have been talking about it and discussing how they had bought a small amount of bitcoin several months ago and their hopes for it to continue to increase in price. I asked myself, considering the current trends, it is definitely a risk to invest, but isn’t it also a risk not to invest? Thus ensued a lot of reading and discussing with my wife whether or not it would be a good idea to also invest in Bitcoin. One night the price of a single Bitcoin was around $12,000. The next morning the price had jumped to $14,000 and within a few hours, the price was $19,000. After talking to my wife again, the thought occurred to me, why does it seem important to invest in Bitcoin? The real answer for me was to make more money for the sake of having more money. After this realization, It was easy to decide not to do it. The why was not in accordance with my own morals. The pursuit of money for the sake of having more money did not sit well with me. Other financial investments have a why behind them that is not about making money. Retirement, medical spending, family. Buying Bitcoin was not right for me, though for others it might be. The important thing is that the why should drive your decision. If the why sits well with you, then do it, if not then don’t.

Another year-end goal was to study Chinese every day. Several years ago I had the opportunity to live in Taiwan as a missionary for my church. This experience brought with it the chance to learn Mandarin Chinese. Upon returning home, despite my efforts, my language abilities decreased, and the discouragement that it brought ensured any motivation to retain it was lost. Studying and trying to continue learning it felt like an uphill battle. When I sat down to set goals, a goal around studying Chinese was one thing that had to make the list. There was no other why other than it’s been procrastinated for too long. Thus far it has been a great experience and through the process of deciding on goals for next year, the why has been improved. The original goal to study Chinese was fairly open-ended with no real final accomplishment to work towards. Going into the new year, the goal has been adjusted to include something to work towards and has made the why much more motivating for me.

The question of “why” has helped in recognizing the importance of some things in my life, and that other things just aren’t important enough to spend time on. It’s also aided in recognition that despite not enjoying or not wanting to do something, the why is important enough to do it. If you are struggling with a decision or being motivated, ask yourself why. If the why is important enough, do it, if not, don’t.

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© Matthew Sessions 2022