Why HOW Matters So Much More Than WHAT

05/15/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

It's often the first question we ask ourselves when we wake up in the morning, "What am I going to do today?" So we make schedules, set up meetings, arrange phone conversations ... trying to make the best decisions on what to do with our time.

However, while what has a place, how is much more important. Lets say, for example, you decide that what you are going to do the first thing in the morning is go for a run. It's an activity that most people would think is positive and healthy. But the more important question is, how are you going to go for a run?

Are you going to run in a hurry, completely consumed in your thoughts, never noticing the trees around you, the breeze on your face, or the clouds in the sky? Is your running motivated by a sense of guilt that if you do not run, you are a bad person, and that no matter how far you run, it is not enough -- you must be stronger, faster, and better?

Is that how you are going to run?

Or are you going to run with an appreciation for this body you are in, an appreciation for the nature that you come in contact with on the run, an appreciation for whatever distance you are able to run this day?

What qualities will you cultivate during the run? Will you cultivate hurry and tension ... or openness and appreciation? The what of the run is pretty meaningless; the how on the other hand matters greatly.

It does not matter the activity, it could be running, emailing, texting, a meeting with a colleague, the what we are doing is so much less important than the how we are doing it.

This is why largely so many "systems" do not work. They tell you what to do, the five secrets to whatever ... but exclude the role of mindfulness, your inner world, or the how that is doing it.

So the next time you see a friend instead of asking him or her, "What did you do today?" Ask instead, "How did you live your day?"

It's a much more relevant question.

Soren Gordhamer is organizing the Wisdom 2.0 Conference, which brings staff from technology companies such as Twitter and Google, with Zen teachers, neuroscientists, and others to explore this living with deeper mindfulness and wisdom in the modern age. More info at: