It’s a double-edged sword.
There are situations in which asking this is a powerful tool for growth.
- When your results were even better than you’d hoped for, analyzing why will enable you to make those success-enhancing activities and decisions part of your regular process.
- When your results were disappointing, getting clear on why that happened will allow you to learn from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them endlessly.
- When you find yourself so overwhelmed that your head threatens to explode, not knowing exactly why you’re doing a particular task will make it easier to let it go as a “not worth my time” activity, and thus make life feel more manageable.
But there are other situations – ones in which asking why will only bog you down and bring forward motion to a screeching halt.
- Any time you ask why and what you really mean is “Why is this happening?!”, you’re acting as if life “should” be “fair,” and you’re implicitly casting yourself in the role of victim. This sucks the energy right out of you and renders you virtually incapable of productive action.
- When you ask another person why they did something, if you’re not careful to keep your tone neutral you’ll activate all their defensive barriers and make effective communication much harder. (A much more neutral way to get at their why is to ask, “What prompted that?”)
- When you ask yourself why you did something in a harsh, berating tone, you’ll stay stuck in the past and waste energy beating up on yourself, rather than dusting yourself off and making another – smarter – attempt.
Fortunately, you can easily, almost magically, change the damaging edge of this two-edged sword into one that enables you to hack through obstacles. Simply ask yourself another question: “Is this particular why moving me forward or keeping me stuck?”
If it helps you figure out your next step, carry on! If, instead, it shunts you onto an endless treadmill of regret, blame, and helplessness, you get to make a powerful choice: Stop asking “Why?!” Simply accept what is, so you can make the mental shift from “stuck” to “solution.”
Simple? Of course.
Worth the effort? Oh, yeah.
Inevitably, there will be times when you find yourself struggling to re-frame situations so you can take advantage of your natural creativity and problem-solving skills. To move past that, may I modestly (or maybe not so much ☺) suggest checking out You, Unleashed: How to Make Powerful Choices and Design the Life You Long For.
I created this e-book explicitly to open readers’ eyes to the many ways in which we often overlook our ability to choose our responses to tough situations – and how to use those newly opened eyes to get better results with less stress.
If you’ve lately found yourself trying to cope with COVID craziness by spending hours immersed in video games, take just one of those hours to read You, Unleashed, instead. I guarantee it will have a more profound impact on your mental health than will advancing to the next level of your computer game. And you’ll even have some fun with it; I promise!
(BTW, thanks to FillipoL1982 for posting the sword image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)This entry was posted in effectiveness and tagged choice. Bookmark the permalink.