As a boy, I remember that one of my favorite words was "why." Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to go to school? Why is it bedtime? Why do I have to wear underwear? Cowboys don't take baths, so why do I have to take one? My mom would patiently answer my endless questions. I was full of wonder and wanted to understand things. By my teens and 20s, I began to ask why less and less; I just started accepting things as they were. Or maybe I just thought I knew the answers.
I have my own family now and a son and daughter who also constantly asked why when they were young toddlers. I can only hope that my wife and I were as patient with them as my mom was with me. My kids are teenagers now, and I have noticed that they also ask why less and less.
Why? Such a simple, yet complex question. In today's society, with our over-scheduled lives and the daily grind of life, it's sometimes difficult to find time to enjoy a quiet moment or to stop and smell the proverbial roses. It's even more challenging force ourselves to be honest with ourselves and ask this tough question: Why?
We need to get back to where we were when we were young boys and girls and start to ask "why" again, to rediscover our innate quest for understanding, an understanding of ourselves as men and women. Specifically, we need to ask: Why do we do what we do? Why do we spend our time the way that we do? Is it fame, fortune, power, ego? Is it just a means to an end? Is it a passion? Regardless of the reason, it's important to start with a fundamental look at why we do what we do.
But that's just the first step -- to take the time and answer the question, or specifically, to "know your why," is the crux. By that I mean that it's crucial for your health and well being to answer that basic question and to know why you do what you do. You can never truly be successful in any endeavor if you don't know your why.
When I was confronted with a moral decision about whether to dope and lie to continue my cycling career with the U.S. Postal Services cycling team or to call it quits, I began to ask "why" again. I loved my job and the thrill of competing as a professional cyclist, but I began to wonder why I was doing what I was doing. Why was I racing my bike? Was it for money or fame? For me, the answer was no. I just loved racing and riding my bike. But when it became evident that I would have to dope and lie to continue my career, I asked myself: Why am I doing this? And then I was free to move on in my life.
Asking that question again and again has served me well since then. Like anyone, however, sometimes I fall off track and need a harsh lesson to remind me. A few years ago, my wife and I separated. It was a painful and difficult time in my life. I found myself starting to turn inwards and focussing on my hurt and what I thought I had done for her. Then something clicked and I started to look in the mirror. I started to ask why again. Why am I in this situation? And I realized that I had been focussing on me and what I thought was important rather than focussing on her. Further, I answered my why: I knew that I was married to my wife for many reasons, but it all boiled down to one answer; she made me a better person and enriched my life. My life and my family's life was better off with her in it and with us together.
Now that I knew my why, I started focussing on what I needed to do to fix it. And a funny thing happened: Once I dropped the bitterness and stopped focussing on what I had done and given up for her and started to realize what she had sacrificed for me, she almost immediately met me halfway.
We just celebrated 17 years last month, and there is little doubt that if I hadn't asked and then answered "why," my life would not be as fulfilling as it is today.
So go ask yourself "why," but more importantly, take some time to "know your why."