“Is It Necessary?” – A Truly Unhelpful Question


If this question is ever asked, the answer is usually no.

When we ask “Is it necessary?”, we are asking if something is absolutely required for survival.

Is food necessary? Yes, but not three meals a day.

Is water necessary? Yes, but humans can survive for days without it.

Is oxygen necessary? Yes, but we can hold our breath for a minute or two.

When I was a competitive swimmer, we would do underwater drills weekly that trained our bodies to need oxygen less and less – taking a breath slows you down after all.

I can still remember the first time I swam completely underwater for the length of the pool (25 yards) during one of these drills. My lungs were screaming for a breath. My body thought I was crazy. My mind was focused on nothing but the breath I wasn’t taking. But I pushed ahead. I kept my focus on the black line on the bottom of the pool and kept kicking.

Then my fingertips touched the wall.

I celebrated this personal milestone with a huge gulp of air.

I had done it.

In this situation, was taking a breath necessary? Eventually, yes.

Here’s a better question: “Was it helpful?”

This question frames the situation is a different perspective.

It’s no longer a black-and-white question of survival – it’s now a deeper question that moves beyond instinct and into purpose and strategy.

So, in this drill was taking a breath helpful? No. It was most helpful to delay breathing for a moment to benefit the purposes of the underwater drill.

In life, we so often frame our decisions in the context of raw survival (“Is it necessary?”) and forget to consider the greater purpose and strategy of our decisions (“Is it helpful?”).

“Is it necessary?” asks if it is something we must do.
“Is it helpful?” asks if it is something we would benefit from.

“Is it necessary?” asks if it will help us survive.
“Is it helpful?” asks if it will help us thrive.

“Is it necessary?” asks if it is the minimum requirement.
“Is it helpful?” asks if it is the best possible action.

Instead of framing decisions through the lens of “Will this ensure that I will merely survive?”, frame them with this question: “Will this help me to truly thrive?”

After all, wouldn’t you rather thrive?

photo by jayhem

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