This is the end of 2017. I graduated from UCLA in 1977. Do the math: four decades. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.
What’s more unnerving is I still have nightmares finding me in Franz Hall, facing a final exam on a topic about which I’m totally unprepared. (Making it more alarming, oft-times my clothes are nowhere to be found. Okay, before you go all Freudian on me, I’m sure you have your own uncomfortable visions while wrapped in the arms of Morpheus.)
While on the subject of final exams, there is an urban legend of a philosophy professor administering one consisting solely of a single word: “Why?”
Most students, hoping to impress the teacher, write page after page on heady topics such as, “Does life have a purpose?” or “Are we merely players in the dream of a super being? or even “Do we exist at all?” One student mulls over the question, pens “Why not?” — and receives an ‘A’.
One doesn’t have to be a philosophy student to understand the implication of “Why.”
As example, a recent trend in contemporary diet plans does not restrict the intake of certain healthier, usually protein-based foods — providing the dieter eats fewer added-sugar, saturated-fat foods as a tradeoff.
Says one of the members at my meeting, “So does that mean I can eat two eggs for breakfast now?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Really? What about three?”
“Sure, if you want.”
She mulls over the answer. “Could I have four?”
“If that’s what you want.”
“So, there’s no limit then? I could eat a dozen eggs?”
“You could,” I replied, adding, “However, the bigger question is ‘why would you need to eat 12 eggs?’ What’s driving you to consume that much food?”
All actions are triggered by a “Why.” Unfortunately, many times, we don’t address that question before launching into a behavior and the results become muddled, unsatisfying, or even harmful. I’m not just talking about food.
Driving down Highway 101, the car behind me is so close I cannot see his taillights. I decide to hit my brakes. Why? To “teach him a lesson.” The results could be that he backs off or that he rear-ends me. Asking myself “Is this ‘why’ worth it?” could save a lot of time, money, and pain.
We have a disagreement. I could take some time to settle down and get my thoughts in line before making a comment; in effect, the proverbial “counting to ten.” I don’t. Why? I’m having trouble dealing with the frustration and feel I need to let it out, damn the consequences. What happens? The argument continues, possibly even escalates; the relationship is more damaged. It takes more time to heal.
The boorish knuckle dragger in my office makes a demeaning comment about women. I could tell him that there is no place for such dialog and he needs to stop or I’ll report him to HR. Rather, I stay silent. Why? I’m afraid we’ll get in an argument or others will look at me as a “tattle-tale,” alienating me from my co-workers. From this inaction, the offender is empowered, others are hurt, I feel ashamed; lawsuits are even possible.
When in doubt, asking oneself, “Why do I want to do this?” leads to a deeper understand of motivation. Once I can determine that motivation, I can ask myself, “How can I get while I want while providing for the best outcome for all concerned?”
Yes, you might have to feel uncomfortable for a short while. Yes, it might cause you to have to look at what makes you tick. No, it might not be as satisfying in the short term.
But the bigger question is why wouldn’t you want to have better results — even if it takes a few moments?
About the author:
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a THINspirational speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds over 23 years ago, he conducts speeches, workshops, and presentations. He also coaches individuals and consults with companies on how to implement and handle change. He can be reached at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com or 707.442.6243.