This feels to me like one of the bigger questions in life. It may at times feel like we are prisoners in our own lives. And to some extent we are. The point is that they are largely prisons of our own making.

Clearly, there are many things we can’t control such as:

  • When and where we are born.
  • Who our parents are or the circumstances into which we are born.
  • What opportunities are available to in our surroundings.
  • Randomness, and there is a lot of it out there.

And yet, we can control:

  • The assumptions that govern our life.
  • The stories we tell ourselves.
  • Where we find joy and purpose.
  • Who we are and who we are becoming.

As Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently noted:

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and our lives shape us.”

What Choices Have You Made?

As Elanor Roosevelt noted, we are continually shaping our lives with each and every decision. Given all the possible ingredients in life, how have we come to be living the life we live? Doing the work we do?

  • What stories led us here?
  • What have we decided not to do?
  • What have we decided is beyond us?
  • How have we come to make these decisions? What were the underlying assumptions?

What Now?

This question feels so powerful. It is full of possibility and optionality. It empowers. It isn’t that anything is possible but at the very least much more is possible than you probably allow. So, ask yourself:

What might be possible if I believed it were possible?


Questions in the Image:

  • Why do I do what I do?
  • What represents a good life for me?
  • What assumptions do I live by?
  • What have I decided isn’t possible for me?

Want to Further Explore This Topic?

Episode 1 of the Time Academy Podcast: What Represents a Good Life For You? explores how we spend much of our time, energy and attention answering this question in our daily actions.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. Today’s question of “Why Do I Do What I Do?” is still echoing in my ears. It applies to every aspect of life including, in my case, to these questions. Who do I explore these questions? Most people think they want answers not more questions. And yet questions empower. Answers disempower. I want to empower.

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share?

I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.