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"How to" or "Why to"?

I found myself revisiting an interview with Adam Grant, a professor at Yale's Wharton School of Business, who has dissected a number of topics including generosity. With an eye on generosity, Grant took time to demonstrate that despite the fact we humans are often considered to be and showcased as selfish, we routinely perform acts of service for others we would be less likely to do if it was only our preferences on the line. The sacrifices a parent commonly makes for their children, pails in comparison to how they would think about themselves.

Along the line of generosity and selfishness, Grant talks about being in the hospital for the birth of one of his children and notices a hand hygiene sign he takes issue with.

Grant points out, "people know understand the process of washing their hands. This isn't a 'how to' problem its a 'why to' problem." Grant took his statements back to generosity. If people aren't informed why washing their hands is directly tied to the safety of others but rather themselves or just an abstract comment, they may be less likely to comply. But when they understand the benefits it has for others, it is likely to increase adherence to the rules.

This discussion of "how to" vs. "why to" has stuck with me over the past 24 hours. What are situations we each face in our day-to-day that are "why to" or "how to" problems? Do we often confuse them? What is the cost of that?

I've thought about my "Show Me Adulting" program through work. I've concluded after brief reflection it is a "how to" program designed to increase the "why to" impetus within people. We've all been told we should save for the future but it feels out of touch or a long way away. My objective has been to show people how to manage their daily lives with the hope they begin to think in a bigger picture way about the future.

What are the "how to" and "why to" questions in your life?

Go Forth Boldly


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