A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Blowing Bubbles in Your Milk: The Art of Asking Why

Sometimes all it takes to shake up our reality, is to ask the simple question: “Why?”

“Don’t blow bubbles in your milk, honey.” “Why, mommy?” “Because it’s bad manners.” “Why?” “Because you just shouldn’t make bubbles with your drink.” “But why?” Hmm, at this point I really just want to say, “because I said so,” when it occurs to me that I really don’t have a good reason why. It’s just something I was taught that I’ve accepted as reality.  While there are certain things that have to fall in the category of “because I said so,” this doesn’t seem to be one of them. At that point, I change my tactic and say, “Well, please don’t make a mess and no one needs to hear your bubbles.” And with that, my son went back to happily blowing bubbles in his milk.

If you’ve ever spent much time around a three-year-old, you know that asking the question, “Why?” is one of their favorite pastimes. Every statement, every request, and even every answer to a previous question is meant with repeatedly asking, “Why?” Although it can be exhausting to answer the same question over and over again, children learn by asking the question “why” . . . and so can we.

Learn to Ask the Important Questions

When it comes to any decision, it’s important to focus on the reasons why you’ve chosen it and not make the initial focus be how you plan to accomplish it. If you want to run a marathon, don’t ask how you’re going to run over 20 miles. Ask why you want to run in the first place. Maybe it’s an effort to get healthy or simply to prove something to yourself. Whatever the reasons, keeping them in mind will help you remain focused while you consider how you will reach your goal.

My best advice for anyone pursuing minimalism is to make sure you’ve decided why you want to have a minimalist lifestyle. Asking the question “Why, do you become a minimalist?” is much more important than asking the question “How do you become a minimalist?” The practical implications are important, but they pale in comparison to personal conviction.

Putting the Why Before the How

Don’t Ask: How do I get rid of all this clutter?
Ask:
Why do I want less clutter in my life?

Don’t Ask: How do I clear out my schedule of all these distractions?
Ask: Why do I want to refocus my time?

Don’t Ask: How can I spend less?
Ask: Why do I want to save more?

By putting the focus on the “why” the “how” will be easier to answer. It’s important to ask the question, “Why?” It keeps us in check. It opens our eyes to new points of view and helps us move beyond our current way of thinking. If we continue to trudge through our days not questioning what we’re doing or why we’re doing it, then we end up unhappy . . . drinking a glass of milk with no bubbles.

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photo by vivekchugh

Article originally published on 11/19/2010

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