Why do we do what we do?

We do things that make us happy.
We do things that we regret.

An act of kindness, a moment of weakness, a thoughtful action, a period of anger.

So why do we do what we do?
What is it that drives us to do what we do?

Is it our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, prejudice?

Seema was in a happy mood when she entered the office on a Monday morning. As she was moving towards her cubicle, she met her boss. Seema smiled and said Hi. Her boss looked at her with a scowl on his face and without answering went his way. Seema was perplexed by this response. She went to her cubicle, sat on her chair and as she opened her laptop, she started thinking if she had done something yesterday that had miffed her boss. She couldn’t think of anything. She then realized that this was the appraisal month and interpreted her boss’s behavior as a bad appraisal for her. Seema could not concentrate on her work and dug deep into her memories to figure out if she had missed any deadlines in the project. She thought if in any meeting she had cut her boss in conversations or if she had offended him in any way. The whole day she was caught in this guessing loop. At 6pm, when it was nearly her time to leave, her boss came to ask Seema about the critical bug fix that was supposed to be resolved today. Seema had been so engrossed in her thoughts that she had completely forgotten about the bug fix. She apologized to her boss and said she’ll work on it and try to fix it before she goes home. Seema was in the office till 9pm fixing the bug.

Raghav was walking on the street on his way to work looking at his watch and hoping he would reach on time. He would lose half a day if he reached later than 10 am. As he was walking, he saw a small boy around 5 years, crying all alone. People walking on the street hardly glanced at the crying child. Raghav felt bad, but he had to reach on time, and he too walked ahead. But somehow, he could not ignore and act as if he had not seen the crying child. He went back and asked the child why he was crying. The child was lost and was separated from his parents during their visit to the nearby park. The park was crowded due to an ongoing flower show and the child had let go of his mother’s hand. Unable to locate them he started crying. Raghav looked at his watch again. He would definitely lose his half day attendance today. Pushing those thoughts aside, he asked the child if knew his parents’ number. Luckily for Raghav, he did know. Raghav called the mother and told her about her lost child. She was crying too and was so relieved to know her child was safe and fine. Raghav gave her the location. Within 5 minutes, the parents came. They were so grateful to Raghav and thanked him profusely. Raghav felt happy and grateful that he had been able to help them and get them out of their misery.

Why did Seema do what she did? Why did Raghav help the child when every person walking on that street had ignored the child?

Seema’s perception that her boss scowled at her because of what she had done started her thought process, created a story around the thought process and made her engross in trying to search for a reason that she completely lost time, energy, and her peace of mind. In fact, her boss was preoccupied with the presentation he was to give to the leadership team and his scowling had nothing to do with Seema.  

Raghav could have easily ignored the crying child and saved his half day at work. Since Raghav was an orphan brought up in an orphanage, his conscious did not allow him to ignore and in the end, he was glad that he could help.

Our perceptions, past experiences, prejudice create thoughts and emotions which in turn drives our actions. We do things based on how we feel and what we think. It might only be a conversation in our head, but we repeat it so many times that we feel it’s real. And then we act and react.

It is always good to express what you feel, communicate instead of assuming, be kind and thoughtful to the people around you and be aware of the thoughts before you deep dive into it and create stories that never was.

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