If I had a pound for every ‘why?’ I hear these days, I would be dancing to the bank! My children are currently in that interesting phase where they ask reasons for everything you tell them. As much as you try as a parent not to kill their curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, it can be hard to have an answer for every ‘why’ they ask. Although, they have made me reflect a lot on why we do what we do. Some things we do because we think we have to, because we have always done so, or because we have been told to do so. As intelligent adults, it is sometimes helpful to step back and reflect on how we choose to live our lives, so that we can improve where there is room to do so, and even do what we really want to do and live happier lives.
For example, why do you wear a seat belt when you drive? Is it because the law says so, or because you understand the safety reasons for doing so? Would you wear a seatbelt if you lived in a country where this is not enforced? Would you wear a seatbelt if you lived in a country where it is illegal not to do so? Public health teams put so much effort into researching the advice they give to encourage us to be safe and healthy. We are advised to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, have less than 14 units of alcohol a week (that is seven pints of 4% lager or seven 175ml glasses of 12% wine), avoid binge drinking, avoid driving while intoxicated etc. Do you eat more or less than ‘five a day’? What would you do if the advice changes to ‘3 a day’ or ‘10 a day’? How much exercise do you currently get? Is it an intentional lifestyle choice, the best you can actually do, or the bare minimum because of doctors’ advice? Would you drink and drive if it was legal? Is your relationship with alcohol something intentional or is it out of control? Would you drink more than 14 units if told it was safe? Would you stop drinking completely if alcohol was made illegal? Advice and laws should help guide our decisions, but we are all different. The legal limits may be safe for most people but unhelpful for you individually. Why do we do what we do?
I often hear people talk about having three or six month ‘holidays’ with their relatives because that is all their visiting visas will allow. Would your visiting parents want to live in your matrimonial home for that long if you lived in the same country? Would you stay in your child’s house for a whole year if the visa allows it? Do the immigration laws, air fares, childcare needs, outside temperature, work commitments, social functions or people involved determine the length of international travel? Have you considered real options for being permanently together if both sides really want to live together? Is it really a ‘holiday’ or are people living in cultural bondage because of laws and visas that were meant to encourage freedom and family life? Would you push yourself to do a professional job if it was not relevant for your immigration status? Would you study that course if it was not on the list of courses sponsored by the government? What do you really want to do? Why do we do what we do? Even as professionals, we can reflect on this. Am I kind and empathetic towards patients because it is part of my job or because it is the right thing to do? Would you double-check things and follow guidelines/ethics, if there was no professional body to monitor your practice? How many hours would you work each week, if you were your own boss? Why do we do what we do?
We can easily get sucked into financial problems when we take up the maximum mortgage or loan the bank will lend us, or use a credit card to its maximum limit. Are we really letting the banks decide how much debt we get into, or is it something we decide on intentionally? Would you borrow more if the banks let you? Would you pay back less than the minimum monthly repayment if there was no minimum? Would you pay back your student loan, if they lost track of your record? Why do we do what we do? Is debt a way of life or something we can choose to intentionally live without? No one knows or understands you or your situation better than you do. Our personalities and choices are affected by several factors, which is why reflecting on our lifestyle choices periodically can help us to understand ourselves better and improve. Some people see laws and standards as their limits, while others use them as a guide to help them be safe, healthy, good, socially acceptable and successful. When we know ourselves and live intentionally, we can set our own personal limits/standards, obviously within the law and with appreciation of good advice, to help us achieve more than the bare minimum, live better than the average life and choose happiness over stress.