All our behaviors are purposeful, even when we or others cannot see the purpose.
At one time or another, every one of us has wondered why we did something or why someone else acted the way they did. The answer is that, at some level of awareness or unawareness the action was for a reason.
An impulsive reaction, a yell, schriek, a string of profanities, or a jump, shove or start may happen before we think, but it is a reaction to something that caused it. Repeatedly doing something that to other observers is obviously self-defeating and nonproductive is always the right reaction, or only reaction, to some problem for the individual doing it. Being lazy and doing nothing in the opinion of an observer is a goal oriented action by the “lazy” person where the goal may be to avoid unpleasant things. Someone “not paying attention” is usually a person who is actually paying attention to more important or demanding distractions like worries or other co-occurring situations. And, the list goes on.
Some of our reactions are explained by simple stimulus – response psychology, and some are the results of much more complex processes that we may not stop to analyze or may not realize. But in all cases, our actions are for some kind of outcome or result and not just random.
The importance of understanding this fact of human behavior is that it allows us to raise the question of why a person may be doing what he or she does when the goal is not visible, and to look behind the action so that we can get a better awareness of that person’s inner thinking and workings, and thus be able to understand him or her better. We usually call this ability, empathy.