It’s been a little while since I last put finger to keyboard. The end of the school year and start of the holidays always makes time that little bit shorter. Now, I absolutely love my three daughters to bits. They’re great fun (mostly), they live for every minute and make my life fulfilling. However, they trash everything, they wake up too early and make noise that cuts right through you.
And they question everything you do! “Why are you doing that Daddy?”, “Why can’t I have a toy Mummy?”, “Why can’t I see Grandma today?”, “What are we doing today? Why are we doing that?” . . . you get the picture!
The power of why
What I’m learning is just how powerful asking questions, in particular those beginning with why, can be? Simon Sinek says ‘Start With Why’, and it seems my daughters have been reading his book far too much.
Why stops you in your tracks. There’s no other question that’s more challenging.
What questions open up possibilities, How questions give you the chance to think through the journey you intend to go on, but Why always requires justification. And the challenge here is to come up with the reason for doing something in the first place. Is it the ‘right thing to do’, ‘what your gut or heart is telling you to do’ might work in some instances, but most of the time, an answer to a why question requires evidence thought through in your head.
The onslaught of why
Why is frequently followed up with other why’s. We used to say when I was working at Roche that you need to ask Why five or six times before you get the answer. Take this (real life) example:
“Daddy, why are you mowing the lawn?”
“Because the grass is long.”
“Because the rain and sunlight make it grow.”
“Because water and light act as food to the soil, which makes the grass grow.”
“But why are you giving it a haircut?”
“So you can play in the garden.”
“Because if the grass is long, it’s harder for you to play in it safely.”
“Because you can’t see what’s in the grass.”
“But isn’t that more fun. I can hide from my sisters and you.”
“Yes, and I’ll get moaned at by your mother!”
Remember your child
My seven-year-old daughter actually won this battle. The actual reason I was mowing the lawn was because of my own vanity, societal norms and fears for my children (a mown lawn is a better place for my children to play than an overgrown one).
Ultimately, to be effective in life, we all need to be able to call on our inner child. That enables us to ask the why question (and to keep asking why). It can be incredibly frustrating, so you need to be prepared for a frustrated response if you keep asking why. But it does ensure you’re doing things for the right reason.