It’s an interesting question that can be answered in multiple ways. Let’s take a look at where each answer leads us.
…Because this is how it has always been done. Honest answer when given. It implies you are just mindlessly “going through the motions”. For most, this answer is the polite way of telling someone that they have never really thought about the question. They just go through each day as it comes with few worries.
…Because what we are doing isn’t working. A person feels trapped when responding this way. The obstacles or the breakdowns they are experiencing are frustrating. But they are motivated enough to know that they have to try to do something different. There is an impatience in doing things as they were done before. The danger in this answer is whether enough time has been spent prior to doing something different, to really understand the problem they are trying to solve.
…Because others are counting on me to do this. This response implies feeling trapped. Where you feel you have to do something because you do not want to disappoint others. Holiday decorating is an example. This type of answer implies that some unseen pressure is placed on you that keeps you from doing something different or not at all. There is a fear that others would not think as highly of you if you did nothing or that they do not have the interest to adjust and fill the void you have now created.
…Because I was told to. This answer is the ultimate “pass the buck” response. It communicates that you don’t care if it works or not and are totally disengaged from the context or reason as to why it was necessary to do what you were told to do. You simply are following orders and are not invested in the outcome.
...Because I am trying to accomplish a specific thing. The person who said this seems focused, thoughtful and conscientious. They have thought through what is worth working towards. The risk in the confidence implied in this answer is whether or not what you were working towards fits the overall direction you intend on pursuing. It also suggests that what you are trying to do is what you believe is the best and/or only way to accomplish that specific thing.
…Because I need to find out if I am “on the right track”. This has a different feel to it where uncertainty leads us to test what we are working towards. Where if you fail, you do not get stuck but understand you need to adjust and try again. Hidden in this answer is a sense of direction where you are trying to accomplish something but will reserve judgment as to the best way to achieve it until you test further.
…I don’t know why. Habit is usually the most common reason for this answer. Another possibility could be that “it’s just the way we are”. When this is the answer, the hope is that there is a need for developing more self-reflection so that we become more self-aware of things we unconsciously do without thinking.
How we answer this simple question “why are we doing this?” is a great window into how we think and reminds us why we sometimes mess up when we limit ourselves to only one answer without ever considering that many are possible. Giving us multiple ways to think about ourselves and to find more ways to improve as we continue to interact with the world around us.