I don’t think that as a person I’m particularly extraordinary. I’m not especially quick to learn things; I’m not especially talented; I’m not outrageously charismatic and I’m really not that great at solving problems. In fact, if I’m honest, I’d rate myself as below average in many ways.
Where I do excel, however, is that I will occasionally question how things are done – I’ll ask ‘why?’ – especially where I feel things aren’t being done in the best way.
It’s just the way that I was brought up, I guess.
I’ve said before that every time I’m tempted to take the left lane, where all the traffic is threatening to block the junction, rather than take the right lane where I have to quickly merge back into traffic, I hear my dad’s voice literally screaming, ‘baaaaaa!’
From an early age, my dad reinforced the idea that many people are indeed sheep, doing whatever they’re told even when it’s idiotic and clearly wrong; even when it makes their lives much harder; even when it causes them misery, daily. “Don’t be a sheep,” said my dad, “Think for yourself. Ask why. And choose your own path.”
This mindset is a big part of why I left teaching and set up my own teaching business. After years of teaching, in different settings, with different headteachers and different governmental policy, the problem was always the same – I was consistently asked to perform tasks that just didn’t make sense to me. More and more of my time – and life – was spent on pursuits that didn’t benefit me, the school or the students in my care.
No one ever had an answer to the ‘why’ questions. “Because we do,” doesn’t cut it.
So now I’ve become my own boss; an entrepreneur. And it’s been damn-right terrifying.
Terrifying, anxiety-provoking and stress-inducing.
But it’s also been completely liberating and wonderful.
I’m working just as hard as I was. Harder, even. But it feels so much easier these days, because I set the work that I do – and there’s nothing I do, that I don’t have a genuine reason for doing.
There’s nothing – at least at ‘work’ – that I do nowadays, simply because I’ve been told to do it.
No more hours wasted writing reports that no one will ever read, just in case or because we really ought to.
Oh – what a difference this makes to job fulfillment – to life fulfillment.
So often, we fall into habits and routines that really aren’t smart or effective. In fact, sometimes they’re just plain counter-productive.
But we just ‘keep calm and carry on’ don’t we? God forbid we rock the boat.
Yet, when we learn to ask why – to question what’s asked of us, and what we ask of ourselves – we might learn to take our boats in a different direction altogether. Or perhaps even get out and swim.