Maybe the Word You’re Looking for is “Motive”

With news of COVID-19 all around us, there’s a pretty predictable rhythm to my days. When the anxiety rises from watching the news, I counter with online yoga and eating fruit. When panic grows from not being paid, I grab the wine bottle and phone a friend. I go up and down like a seesaw.

But amidst it all I read about heroic and generous things people are doing. I like to think that most people want to help in some way beyond avoiding crowds and staying 6’ apart. Deciding what to do, however, can be challenging — support a charity, sew a mask, adopt a pet, close a business, phone a friend, order carry-out, cancel a debt, offer a concert for free, etc.

One way I decide how to help is to ask myself “why?” Why do I want to do this or that?

The idea of repeatedly asking “why?” is based on a practice developed by Sakichi Toyoda to identify the root cause of problems in car manufacturing. Toyoda, the Japanese industrialist, inventor, and founder of Toyota Industries, developed the 5 Whys technique in the 1930s. It became popular in the 1970s, and Toyota still uses it to solve problems today. Regardless of the problem, if you keep asking yourself “why?” with each answer you’ll get at the root cause of the problem.

As a Martha Beck Life Coach In-Training, we use the 5 Whys as a method of healing and helping clients get to the underlying beliefs that limit their growth and happiness. It can take some digging, but it works.

I’m suggesting the same approach for deciding how to help during this crisis. Take a look at the motive for your decision. To support your community? Grow your business? Help your neighbor? Comfort a child? Comfort yourself? Like finding the root cause of a problem, your motive will change from day to day and that’s okay. So is a motive to keep yourself healthy and safe.

But knowing “why” you want to get involved makes how and when you get involved that much easier to decide.

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