Sometimes it’s good to ask why

“But, why?” It’s easy to relegate that question to the relentless, persistent, sometimes pesky toddler phase that goes something like this:

Time to eat. “But, why?”

Time for bed. “But, why?”

That’s hot. “But, why?”

Sound familiar?

While “why” might be a dreaded word for a season of parenting, I believe asking why shouldn’t be reserved for the very young.

While why-questions should gain depth and momentum as one ages, those questions shouldn’t disappear. Asking questions is a vital component to being a good student no matter your age.

A kid I adore recently confessed a little sheepishly, “I want to know everything. I want to know who invented things. I want to know how old things are.”

She wants to know why. And I believe that’s something to be proud of.

But I wondered something. Why did she feel embarrassed to have questions? Are we implying to our kids and to the people we do life with that we somehow know everything, and if you don’t, good riddance? As a parent, as a friend, a wife, a daughter, a writer, a leader, I really don’t want to leave that impression.

I believe, no matter how old I get, I will still have things to learn and places to grow. So, I will be the first to confess, I don’t know everything. In the scope of things, I really don’t know much.

Oftentimes in response to questions, like “who invented spaghetti,” for instance, I turn to Google. If you’re wondering, popular history says spaghetti was first made in China, and Marco Polo introduced the dish to Venice.

In searching for an answer, I learned something new. And admittedly, I probably wouldn’t have gone searching for that answer without someone first asking a question.

To expand beyond noodles, I believe that asking questions is the only real beginning of innovation. Sometimes questions lead to wrestling with answers. Sometimes questions lead to more questions… but sometimes, it leads to answers.

This cycle should evoke excitement. But in general, I don’t think it does. I think when the going gets tough, it’s easier to throw up the hands rather than dig in and discover… but maybe that’s because our methods are backward.

On my Facebook writing page, I recently asked a couple questions about goals as I brainstormed ideas for this column. (Search Facebook for @MalindaDJust and like my page to join in on future questions and discussion!)

When asked if they set personal goals, a majority of responses said no. Reasoning ranged from fear of failure, to tried goals and they didn’t work, to being a procrastinator, to goals seem too aggressive. To be fair, there were people who said they were goal-oriented, and setting personal goals helped with their accomplishments. Others said they set large goals, but have smaller goals to continually mark progress toward the end goal.

As a follow-up, I made the statement that fear of failure seems to be a top reason people don’t set goals, and I asked for people to either agree or disagree. Of the people who responded, 90 percent agreed with that statement.

But does that mean we shouldn’t set goals? I don’t think so. But I do think that to increase the rate of success, there needs to be a deeper question asked.

Why?

So many times when I have tried to set a goal, it was always focused on the end result. The what. The what is basic, and most people can easily answer that question. According to Simon Sinek in his book, “Start With Why,” knowing “what” doesn’t end in success. He says even knowing “how” isn’t enough.

To really find success, it starts from the inside, out, with the “why.”

Profit isn’t a why, nor is weight loss, a cleaner house, increased savings, or publication. Those are all results. They are whats.

A to-do list isn’t a why, nor is a workout plan, a work schedule or a blog post calendar. Those are all hows.

The why is a belief. Why do you believe your goal is important? Wrestle with it. Dig deep. That’s where you’ll find inspiration and drive. That’s where determination comes from.

One of Sinek’s why examples of high regard is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sinek is careful to remind his reader that as King gave a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, it was not about how his vision would be accomplished, but it was about what King believed.

“He gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, not the ‘I Have a Plan’ speech,” writes Sinek. “Dr. King offered America a place to go, not a plan to follow. The plan had its place, but not on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.”

So let’s work from the inside, out. Don’t be afraid to start with why.