Asking why prepares and strengthens your mind…

“The mind is like an umbrella. It’s most useful when open.”

Walter Gropius

If you don’t make a regular practice of finding and opening your umbrella, it won’t be ready to go when you need to use it. The same goes with your mind; one must cultivate openness and practice expanded thinking if you want to be ready when the time is right.

The key to practicing openness of mind is to ask yourself the important “why” questions regularly. Why do I believe what I believe? Why is that belief correct? Why is that belief useful? Etc.

If you don’t ask yourself “why,” you might find that your umbrella is frayed and useless when called into service.

Are you investing in your purpose?

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Mark Twain

Some people are blessed to learn the reason why they were born at a relatively young age. For others, it might take years. Given that our time on earth is finite, perhaps the two most important questions you can ever ask yourself are, “Why am I here?” And “What am I going to do about it?”

  • Do you know why you were born?  How much time, effort, and energy are you devoting to answering this “why” question?  If you don’t know, then you aren’t investing enough.
  • Once you have an answer to the first question, the focus changes to; “how much time, effort, and energy are you devoting to living a life fully and completely aligned with your “why?”  If it is less than 100%, you will never be able to live a fulfilled life.  

I can guarantee this. Not one of us was born to go to school, work for forty years, retire, and then die. Those are the transactional elements of life. They are not the reason. All of us were born for a purpose, and we have to figure out what it is. Otherwise, the transactions don’t matter.

Empower better decisions…

“Directions are instructions given to explain how. Direction is a vision offered to explain why.”

Simon Sinek

Without a clear vision then the directions given might be unclear or lend themselves to interpretation. More importantly, if you are a person that holds on tightly to the giving of directions, then the work product can only be as good as you are…

When you focus on providing the vision (direction) and your directions (how) are used to define the guidelines of how decisions are made then you are empowering others to make even better decisions.

Without direction people aren’t empowered to figure out better directions…

The conversation in your head…

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

Peter Drucker

Listening to the words that are being said is a hard proposition. All too often I catch myself listening just well enough to create my response. In many cases I, and most people, aren’t really listening at all, the mind is rehearsing its response to whatever is being said.

How do you achieve a higher level of listening which is more than hearing all the words? How do you listen well enough to understand the “why” of what is being said? Once you get to that level only then are you truly listening.

I have found two things that help me move past the natural tendency of my mind to be framing a response prematurely.

First, I remind myself to seek to understand the “why.” I want to do everything I can to be able to understand the why well enough to be able to see the conversation from the other side of the table or from another perspective.

Second, as I quiet my mind and truly listen to the words I remind myself to listen in order to ask questions. Listening to respond versus listening to ask questions takes a very different mindset. If one is focused on asking insightful questions in order to understand you can get closer to understanding the “why.”

Neither of these things are easy, and they are certainly not my natural tendency. Doing it well takes both diligence and intentional effort. In many ways it reminds me of a good meditation practice. When you fail, you catch yourself and simply begin again. Do it often enough, and with enough discipline, perhaps you can find yourself truly listening to the conversation that is going on and not just the one in your head…

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dusty

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