– Stella, my daughter
My daughter is about to turn two, and she recently started asking “Why?” Every time she does, my eyes light up in excitement!
You see, “Why?” is a game kids play starting around age two, and they’ll continue to play until their parents, teachers, TV shows, and government convince them to stop.
Here’s an example conversation:
Me: Let’s go outside
Me: Because it’s a beautiful day
Me: Because it’s 70 degrees outside and the sun is shining
Me: Because there are no clouds in the sky
Me: Because I love you. Now let’s go!
Side note: I usually end the why conversations with “I love you.” rather than going into the basics of physics or meteorology with my 2 year old. I can’t wait until the day I can say “I don’t know, let’s go look it up on the computer!”
If you think this is a silly conversation, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Rather than responding to the first “why?” with “because I said so” I’ve taught my daughter several important lessons. First, that she should spend time outside on beautiful days. Second, that a warm sunny day is a thing of beauty. Third, that the sun shines on days without clouds. And finally, that I love her. These are all good things for her to know.
Saying “Because I said so” is the worst thing you can ever say to a kid. “Why?” you ask? Because eventually this will teach them to stop asking, and that’s the biggest disservice you can do to someone.
Asking “why?” is how kids learn the way things are. It’s how they learn science, art, music, math, culture and everything else. Watching a 2-year old ask this question over and over is proof that humans were born to seek understanding, not to memorize facts and follow the leader. Discouraging the question leads to a hatred and apathy for education. It leads to unhappy kids with straight A’s but no real knowledge.
“Why?” is the most important question in existence. And here’s the good news: it’s not just for kids, it’s for you too!
Asking “why” is the key to leading a deliberate life, because you must first understand why things are the way they are. After this, you can make an educated decision on how you want to proceed.
Here are a few “why’s?” to start with:
- Why should I go to college? Is it because most smart people do, or because the thing I want to do the rest of my life requires it?
- Why should I have 2 cars in my family household, even though I can easily bike to 90% of my destinations?
- Why should stay at this job that I hate?
- Why should I buy a larger house?
- Why should I dress a certain way for my job, when it has no impact the the quality of my work?
Obviously these questions are all biased towards the lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself and choose to promote on this site. But that’s not the point. You should equally be asking:
- Why should I bike to work, rather than drive? Wouldn’t driving save time?
- Why should I downsize my house, when I have a family that needs space?
- Why should I want to retire early? I love my job and the people I get to work with.
- Why should I read this blog, he’s just a regular guy and he’s no smarter than me!
Asking why it how we learn. It’s how we understand the world around us to make decisions that are consistent with our ideals and beliefs. And that is what leads to happiness.
So ask “why?” and don’t stop there. Encourage your kids, your family, your friends, your employees and your employers all to do the same. Some people will hate you for it, others will love you. But I assure you that it will make you a happier person.