Create The "Why Habit" To Change Your Behavior

Have you ever talked to someone who just kept asking “why?” to everything you say, forcing you to go into more and more detail?

It’s pretty annoying, right? But have you ever thought about why it’s possible to continue to ask “why?”

Why is the drilling question – the more times you ask it in a row, the closer you’ll get to the root. It is the key ingredient in the powerful question that can change your behavior.

Ask Yourself: “Why Am I Doing This?”

This is the question that demands a reason, and this is why it is so important to ask it frequently. We need to have reasons for our actions, even if the reason is merely, “I want to relax.” And why do we need reasons? Because a meaningful life can’t happen without reasons. Reasons for doing something result in intentional action, which is the foundation of progress and happiness.

For example, just a few moments ago, I was not writing this.

I was browsing the web. Then I asked myself, “why am I doing this?” My response was blank – I had no good reasons. Shallow online browsing was not pertinent to my life. It was a time sieve.

I stopped immediately.

Create The Why Habit

The “why habit” is dynamite on the impact scale, yet easy to create. You only need to get into a habit of asking yourself, “why am I doing this?” Do it early and often – at the dinner table, at parties, while pumping gas, and right now. It’s not that it’s important to do it while you’re filling up your tank, it’s important to make it a habit so that you’ll ask yourself when it matters. It’s a state of mind that you can develop that keeps your
behavior honest.

If you’re thinking, “yeah, but I need to relax sometimes!” Relaxing is not a waste of time if you need it or want it. Life is only boring and tragic when people chronically do nothing of importance. Right on cue, the most recent study by Nielsen found that Americans watch an average of 5 hours and 5 minutes of TV every day! TV is a notoriously mindless activity and this data tells me that the average American chronically does nothing of importance. I don’t mean that in a condescending way. I say that because I know that most people would not consciously choose to spend 31% of their waking hours watching TV.

Some people really are living for the weekends and TV shows or more accurately, they’re not living at all. Do they ever ask themselves, “Why am I doing this?” No, and maybe that’s because the left hemisphere of the brain (which handles logic) goes dormant while watching TV.

It’s not just television either; other mindless activities include Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, web surfing, and email.

When you’re looking at Susan’s pictures on Facebook and you ask, “why am I doing this?” Your left hemisphere will light up and say, “Whoa! You’re talking to me? Thanks for letting me do something!” Then, this “boring” side of your brain will inform you that you’ll get more life meaning and satisfaction from tweaking your resume, reading a good book, making a budget to prepare for a trip to Thailand, writing on your blog, or working on that amazing project you never started.

3 More Benefits Of This Habit

1. Life will become more about what you REALLY want. “Why” is a very confrontational and philosophical question. The “who-what-where-when-how” questions are all pretty straightforward, but “why” digs deeper. It can make you uncomfortable. It straightens you out. It points you towards activities which you can give an answer for.

Why am I writing this? To promote my blog, because I love to write, because I’m passionate about helping others live better, because I learn from it, and because it’s fun. There’s five reasons! Now how about an example of an activity with fewer good reasons…

•Who? You.
•What? Watching The Bachelor.
•Where? Your living room.
•When? 8 PM.
•How? By turning to channel 12 and watching.
•Why? Well, uh….hmm….good question.

2. You’ll be more productive than ever. Once you attach meaning to your activities, your productivity will increase. Two hours less of TV per day is more than 700 more hours per year to get other things done. Or if you’re the average American and whittle the 5.1 hours down to one hour per day, you’re freeing up an extra 1,496 hours per year.

3. You’ll be happier. The more meaningful your life is, the happier you’ll be. Asking why and acting upon it practically guarantees you’ll do things that mean something to you. As you cut out time-burning tasks that don’t add value to your life, you’ll see better results in areas you care about (finances, friends, health). Nearly any area of life can be improved by this.

The question of why is a universally useful tool. When asked why, my answer and your answer could be totally different. Why exercise? For me, it could be that I primarily want a visible six pack for the ladies. For you, it could be that you want to live to be 100. Another person might like the benefits of being stronger.

How To Use The Why Drill

If you are unsure if your answer to the why question is satisfactory, ask why until you understand the underlying reason for your action. I call it the why drill because each time you ask it, it burrows deeper towards the core cause. Here’s one possible trail that leads to a surprising root cause.

Why are you watching The Bachelor? Because I want to.
Why? Because it’s fun and relaxing (debatable).
Why is that what I want right now? Because I’m tired.
Why? Because I’m not motivated to do anything else.
Why? Because I feel discouraged.
Why? Because I’ve been applying for so many jobs and haven’t received a single call back!

Boom! In this case, our subject was watching The Bachelor as a result of job discouragement. She felt like actively seeking jobs was a waste of time, and wanted to escape the real world for a while. As an aside, avoiding reality prolongs, not solves, your problems.

Even after you find the core reason, it’s often wise to keep drilling further!

Why haven’t I received a call back? Because it’s out of my control. I’ve been doing my best and I’m still not getting an interview.

With that last answer, she realizes that it isn’t in her control and she’s done her part. Perhaps this new perspective will help her to weather the storm of uncertainty. Maybe she’ll see that logically, her best chance of success is to try and try again.

Creating the why habit and using the why drill can provide a big benefit with minimal effort. If you’re interested in more practical and scientific ways to help you increase your discipline, focus better, build good habits, and live in line with your values, join Deep Existence. In addition to a useful message from me each Tuesday, members receive three amazing gifts (40 exclusive focus-themed desktop wallpapers, my eBook, and focus tools). We’d love to have you. If you’re interested, you can see more here!

Cheers,
Stephen Guise

Written on 11/6/2013 by Stephen Guise. Besides writing for his own blogs Stephen is a featured writer here at Dumb Little Man. Be sure to stop by Stephen’s ‘featured writer page‘ right here on Dumb Little Man to find links to more of his articles.

Photo Credit: openpad

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