The Best Life Advice You Get From a 3 Year Old
I get a kick out of going to my buddy Joel's. His little guy Malcolm hits me with the question "why?" the first chance he gets. I'm lucky if I get my shoes off. I'm sure it grows tiring as a parent, but as an observer it's fascinating. It's also, incredible life advice.
Malcolm refuses to take your initial answer as being definitive. I picture him thinking, You can't possibly be happy with your first answer, so I'll continue asking why because you don't know any better. I had a friend remark, "You don't have to answer," as her daughter interrogated me. Knowing full well she'd stop asking why when she got bored, the game was entertaining. There's a lesson buried in the barrage of questions.
Don't be content with the first bit of life advice you hear or tell yourself.
The inquisitive nature of kids is to whittle the complicated down to its simplest form. Whereas adults create complex stories to avoid the obvious. I hate my job, but quit? I'd be crazy to pass up a pension and benefits. Go back to school and do something I love? I don't have time. But really, why?
If you pummel someone with enough why's, the wall comes down. Piled in the rubble is a mess of bricks you strategically placed to keep everyone on the other side (yourself included). Once the dust settles, the raw simplicity of what makes you and the world around you tick becomes clear. My introduction to Coaching was the first time I had clarity and felt purposeful in my life. A Coach helps you construct the life you want to live. But to make sense of where you want to go, you need to understand where you're at.
I'm fascinated by the stories we tell ourselves and others. They become our narrative and our truth. You can't trust anyone. Everyone will screw you over. Brick upon brick stacked into the clouds. Life gets difficult (and it always does), so we keep stacking. Of course this happened, shit always happens to me. What's the point of these stories? They satisfy the need to say it's not our fault. It's much easier to pretend we're at the mercy of the gods then to dig deep into the root cause of the problem.
Humans are hardwired to problem-solve, except our default is the path of least resistance. Can't sleep? Take this pill. Frustrated with your co-workers? Read this book (or take a pill). Unhappy? You should take a vacation (or a pill). Stressed the F out? Try colouring books (or a pill). Finding the side effects of this pill too much? Try this pill. If we view life as a series of problems, all we see is problems. That's a problem.
Ever get to a friend’s house and wonder who did the driving? That's autopilot. Quite literally autopilot, if you drive a Tesla. All the thinking and decisions done for you. A fantastic leap for driving and safety, but wouldn't you like to have a say in your life?
But who the hell has time to figure out what's going on? I mean really, who hasn't flipped a table at East Side Mario's because they were out of breadsticks? Unlimited means unlimited. I'm sure it's a coincidence frustration is at an all-time high with coworkers, with no end in sight. You're unhappy in your relationship? That only affects you at home. We don't have time to figure out where the leak is coming from, plug it and move on. The foundation gets weaker with every lazy solution. Before you know it, you're asking yourself how the hell did this get so big? I don't even like breadsticks and who the hell eats at East Side Mario's?
Just because another person can do something one way doesn't mean that's the only way it can be done. Life advice comes in all shapes and sizes.
What if we reframe problems as opportunities to ask why? Make a promise to not settle for the first answer that comes to mind. Strive for a better understanding of what we have control over and what we don't. This is the process of simplifying your why. The complicated is a mirage. It's not to say the solution is easy, but there's always a simpler form. Break it down until the first steps become obvious.