Do you know why you do what you do?
This is the question that has been burning in my brain over the last several weeks as I observe people "peopling".
I should tell you that I have an undergraduate degree in sociology, the study of various social aspects of human behavior, but even though I've been trained to think this way, I swear I was born a sociologist.
For as long as I can remember, the question, why do people do what they do, has been my main thought. I've always been an observer and a questioner of human behavior and social structures. I've always sought to understand why people do what they do and why things are the way they are.
This has been to my detriment at times because I have a hard time "letting sleeping dogs lie" if you know what I mean...I rarely accept things as they are and lord knows I'm at least a few blacklists. I take pride in my depth of understanding of social structures and how people fit into them. My brain just starts observing, analyzing and organizing data before I ask it to! So yeah, I don't do small talk well because I will inevitably begin deconstructing whatever the topic is. I truly, madly, deeply love getting to the root of why. It's great for my professional life, not so great for my personal life. Any friends that I have at this point are down to solve the world's problems every time we talk.
The real problem is though, if I'm busy thinking about what everyone else is doing all.the.time., then I'm not spending much time thinking about why I'm doing what I'm doing.
To be honest, I didn't question my own behavior until I HAD TO. I woke up one day as a homemaker and realized that while I was living someone else's version of a good life, it wasn't mine. In fact, I hated my life. AND, even when I realized that I hated my life, I still did what other's suggested I ought to do to make my life better. It literally took me YEARS to realize that I needed to figure my own shit out. FYI, the answer is rarely "out there", it's just about always "in here"- in you heart. I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to be just a mother. That might be everything for some people, but I want more. I want to teach, travel the world and give speeches; I want to write books and leave a legacy. More simply put, I want to share knowledge. I haven't figured out how this will all happen, but I'm getting better and better at making sure my actions align with my why.
So, now that I'm more self aware, and know what I want, "the" question has evolved from why do people do what they do, to do people know why they do what they do?
The famous Socrates quote, "To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom" points to the vital importance of understanding why you do what you do. You cannot understand your thoughts, your behaviors nor your circumstances if you never look within. This means, you cannot live a conscious life because if you aren't aware, then you'll fall prey to the whims of marketing, your peers and the social norms of society. I would like to point out that you also have no business questioning other people's behavior if you don't ever question your own. Take it from me, spending all of your time examining other people's behavior and never questioning your own is a recipe for disaster. It's how you wind up a hot mess and blaming everyone and everything for you problems. It's how you end up stuck.
I believe that the vast majority of people have no freaking clue why they do what they do and this is why our society is cracking at the seams. Most people have been programmed from a very young age to fit in, or to achieve for the sake of achieving. Most people are constantly glued to screens that flash images of all the ways to live a happy life. Or they're busy constructing a happy version of their life to post on social media in an attempt to actually be happy. Most people have never been encouraged to regularly question their thoughts and actions nor the reasons behind them. This means that most people don't know why they do what they do. This means that most people don't know why they feel the way they feel. This means feeling powerless over their life. This means living in fear and scarcity. This means anxiety, depression and anger. (Hello road rage!)
Are you most people?
Why do you do what you do? Do you know? Every aspect of your life should be intentional, from the clothes you wear, the people you hang out with to the food you put in your mouth. Do your choices align with your values, your goals and your overall well being? Everything you do matters. Your choices affect your mental, physical and spiritual health. Your choices affect everyone you come into contact with, especially those close to you.
If you're a parent, then you ought to know that kids don't do what you say, they do what you do.
This isn't a dress rehearsal. This is your life. This is it; it's happening now. Before you know it, you'll be eighty (if your lifestyle choices allow!), and you'll be thinking about your life. Will you be at peace knowing you lived with intention and purpose, or will you be filled with regret because you got caught up going through the motions? Will you be clear headed, healthy and vibrant, or will you be suffering from chronic illnesses? Will you have lived the life of your dreams or never really lived at all?
It's up to you to decide how you want to live and it starts with asking yourself: why do I do what I do? The good news is, if you don't like the answers, you have the power to make better choices.
As always, thanks for reading! If you would like actionable steps for understanding "why you do what you do" sent directly to your inbox, subscribe to my newsletter:
There's a song for that: "Who We Are", Red
P.S. That's me and Jen Sincero, author of "You are a Badass", the first self-help book I ever read. She changed my life and meeting her felt like being one step closer to realizing my dream. I asked her to write in my copy of "Badass Habits", "Write the damn book!" :)