Philosophy Week, Post 2

By | Monday, December 14, 2020 Leave a Comment
One question I ask myself a lot is, "Why did I do that?" I don't ask in a derogatory or demeaning type of tone; it's not a form of passively aggressively calling out my own bad behavior. It's an actual question that I use to figure myself out.

Every action I take is for a reason, whether I consciously realize it or not. Some are fairly obvious -- if I haven't had meat in a while and I'm hungry, it wouldn't take a genius to figure out that's why I got a cheeseburger for lunch. Some reasons for my actions, though, aren't so straightforward. In fact, some might not even be easily discernable to me. And figuring out why I make those decisions and take those actions helps me to better understand myself (primarily) and others. If I understand why I make a decision, it can help me figure out if it's a valid response or not, and whether I should continue making decisions in that same manner.

Of course, I don't always have an answer readily available. Sometimes, it's not always practical to address a question like that in the moment. Sometimes, the answer lies buried within decades old memories that haven't consciously come to the surface in ages. Sometimes, the root cause is from a less-than-obvious tangential incident. Sometimes, you just need a little distance to properly assess the situation.

Not every action is one that needs to be re-assessed and changed. There could be a perfectly reasonable rationale behind that decision and/or it doesn't have a material impact on anything anyway. I still find it a valuable exercise to ask "why" though, so that I can validate the choice.

Why do I procrastinate?
Why do I keep a blog?
Why do I hold a knife and fork that way?
Why do I mostly keep to myself during group discussions?
Why do I wear clothes that are mostly mono-chromatic?

The impact of the questions vary. I did change how I hold a knife and fork after asking myself that question, but it's a pretty trivial aspect of life ultimately. Procrastination, on the other hand, can have a huge impact on everything I work on, but by knowing why I do procrastinate, it allows me to indulge in it when the stakes are less critical.

Of course, part of the challenge in that internal reflection is setting aside the time to do it, without a load of distractions to pull you away from your thoughts. Personally, I've found running to be very useful in this regard. The rhythm of my legs acts as a sort of physical white noise, and there's little to do besides think. Biking is fast enough that it requires reallying paying attention to my surroundings at all times to avoid an accident, and swimming requires enough precision (particularly when it comes to breathing) that I have to focus a lot of my mind on that. Running allows me to get lost in my own thoughts, and address that question of why. For me, at least, it's almost a form of meditation. I think I've gotten to a much better, more comprehensive understanding of myself since I began running not quite a decade ago, and I've led a much more fulfilling life in that time.

(As an aside, that's not why I first started running. And it's not the only reason I continue to run.)

But by continuing to ask myself why I do everything I do -- not just on those decisions I regret making or consider a mistake -- I have a better understanding of who I am. While it might be seen as a bunch of navel-gaving, that I'm actively trying to answer a specific question, I suspect I come away with more resolution than un-directed meditation. It's not the broad, open-ended question of, "Why am I here?" but asking the questions with specific, discoverable answers ("Why did I do that?") takes me ever-closer to figuring out who I am.
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