Do you know why you do what you do?

I was reading this wonderful quote by Henry David Thoreau, this week, and it brought to mind the importance of understanding why we do the things we do. In recent times, I have given more thought and time to this and it has helped me to make better decisions about myself and how I should move forward in  life.

In the audio below, I discuss how I have benefitted from this increased understanding, and how you can too.

Click play on the audiio (the orange play button) and/or read the Transcript below.

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Do you know why you do what you do? - Transcription

[00:00:00] Some men go fishing all their lives without realizing it's not the fish they are after.

[00:00:08] That's an old quote from Henry David Thoreau. And it's a great quote. And it really had me thinking today.

[00:00:16] I'm from a smal townl, in the middle of Ireland. I still live here at the moment. I regularly see people go fishing. It's a habit I could never get into myself. But I see people sitting on the river bank at various places throughout the town and outside the town. And they can be there for hours and hours. And to be truthful, with the river that flows through my hometown, you're not going to catch a lot. And I often wondered why they're so keen to do it.

[00:00:51] And I see now the real reason they do it is the benefit isn't in catching fish. I mean, if they only did it to catch fish they would have given up by now because they clearly don't catch a lot. The benefits lie elsewhere.

[00:01:06] I've been thinking about that and the impact it has on my own life. And I realize I have my own hobbies and interests and things I do work-wise; and understanding the reason why I do them has really helped me. It has really helped me grow as a person to understand why I am doing these things.

[00:01:28] For example, I go walking regularly. So much so that at times I've been known throughout my town as the guy that's always out walking; and I really enjoy walking. I certainly do experience some physical benefits from it, which is what you would think would be the reason why somebody goes walking. But the real reason I walk is for the mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that I get from being out in nature, walking out on my own and allowing my thoughts to flow freely. That's where the real benefit comes from.

[00:02:06] Because to be honest, if I was just walking for the physical benefits of it, I would give it up very easily. On days where there's bad weather, for example, I would find a reason not to go out. I would just go 'screw that I'm not going out in that'.

[00:02:20] Even the last few days, it's been raining here and I've gone out every day for a walk. And instead of going, 'I'm not going out in that weather' I realized the benefits that I get from the walk. So each day what I did was, I went and I grabbed my rain jacket,  and then I just focused on stepping out into my yard and locking the door behind me. And once I had stepped out into the yard and locked the door, I now knew I was committed to going on the walk and off I went and I have to say, I felt fantastic. You know, I felt great, like a weight had been lifted from my world.

[00:03:01] it's a habit I got into many years ago when I used to struggle with depression. I realized that getting out, get moving, get into nature, where there was nobody else around you, where you could let your mind flow freely, experience your own thoughts and feelings, all those things. They were all benefits of walking.

[00:03:21] Another way that I found that understanding the real reason I do something has benefited me is when it comes to weight. I have struggled with my weight, most of my life. I can pile on pounds very, very easily, and I used to think that it was just that I was greedy and I just needed to discipline myself, but that's not the reason.

[00:03:44] Somewhere in my childhood. I learned that when I felt bad that I should reach for comfort food, sugar, rich comfort food. I love ice cream. I love crisps or, potato chips, you might call them in some parts of the world. And the truth is  whenever I've been feeling bad over the years, I've had a greater tendency to reach for it, reach for junk food, to give myself comfort in that means.

[00:04:10] And understanding that has helped me to make better decisions. And I'm really starting to implement them now. For starters, I do to the obvious thing that I suppose. I take more care and I'm more mindful of the food that I'm bringing into my house. So I don't keep junk food in the house. I allow myself a treat every now and again, but for that, I have to go out and purchase that treat there and then.

[00:04:35] So that's one way of doing it, and that helps me to cut down. , If the junk food is not within easy reach when I'm feeling bad. I can't just reach for it. It makes it a bit more difficult. It puts some resistance in there. So knowing that I'm an emotional eater has helped in that way.

[00:04:52] Of course, another factor is also to find greater ways of dealing with managing and processing my emotions. Some of the practices I've implemented to help me manage those emotions are things like meditation. I do both  Zazen and Anapanasati, which is focusing on your breath. I do some journaling, not every day, but regularly where I just write freely stream of consciousness, let it all come out of my mind, whatever is in there, and once it's come out of my mind I usually realize it's nothing major and it just goes away.

[00:05:29] Exercise, of course, as I've already stated is another way that I manage my emotions.

[00:05:34] Stretching so that I don't feel as stressed or fatigued in my body has been a great help.

[00:05:41] And another thing I do is reflection. So I often sit quietly and reflect upon various areas in my life or challenges I've faced or that I'm facing even look back at the results of certain behaviors. See what I can learn from it. And all those things helped me to manage my emotions.

[00:06:02] Another thing is regularly reading. Through my reading. I gained a greater understanding. I read a lot of spirituality work and for example, one of the greatest lessons I've learned to help me manage my emotions is that life is impermanent. It is the true nature of life. Everything comes and goes. So if you're feeling high right now, you could be feeling low later on this evening and high again tomorrow.

[00:06:25] And when you understand that you don't get so caught up in the fact that you're not feeling so great right now, you understand that if you keep pushing through, you can feel good tomorrow.

[00:06:35] So those things have really helped me. And I couldn't do those things if I didn't really understand the true nature of the problem.

[00:06:42] If I thought that I was just eating comfort food out of greed and selfishness. I wouldn't properly manage the problem. I wouldn't experience the benefits of my walking and I wouldn't walk as much if I didn't truly understand what I was gaining from the process.

[00:07:00] Thinking like that is very, very useful. When you understand why you do the things you do, you will make better choices and it will lead to a richer, more rewarding life. It impacts every area of your life. So always try to understand your why, what is the reason? Why do I do this? How do I gain from it?

[00:07:25] And when you do that, you can make smarter decisions.

[00:07:29] So that's something for you to think about today. I will chat to you soon.

Living Purposefully

Create a life that is stremalined and focused; allowing you to be your best self and derive the maximum joy from life.


Discover and define your purpose with the 'Living Purposefully' course.

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