The one time you should never start with WHY.

The one time you should never start with WHY.

The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions  – Dr John Demartini

The questions we ask ourselves are powerful shapers of our reality. Questions direct our mental attention to a focus point, and where attention goes, energy flows.

When we ask powerful, useful questions, our energy flows in a way that serves us, however when we ask un-useful questions, our energy flows to a point of stuckness, excuses, and stories of blame and helplessness.

Why is such a powerful question, however there are times when why is a very useful question to help you move forward and times when it only drives you into the ground.

When “Why” is awesome.

Simon Sinek was right, starting with WHY is an excellent question and process, when you are focused on something that you are moving TOWARD and wanting to achieve in the FUTURE. Asking yourself why in this instance gets to the heart of your purpose and values, and creates motivation, inspiration and drive. If you haven’t seen Sinek’s TED talk I highly recommend it. 

Why is not so good in the past.

However when you are assessing negative behaviour that you have done or a result that you created in the PAST, asking why is not a very useful question at all. When you ask “Why did I do that?” about a negative behaviour often you can’t answer it rationally because the driving force that created that action was unconscious. No-one would ever consciously or rationally choose to sabotage themselves or get a negative outcome. In these cases the driving force is always in our unconscious mind.  Asking the why question in this instance only activates excuses, rationalisation and blame, it rarely creates responsibility and choice.  Asking why in this instance is often completely useless, and often even counter-productive, as it creates further failure thinking that stops you from moving forward powerfully and learning from your actions.


Never ask your kids why.

Remember this with your children also, asking them “why did you hit your sister?” “Why did you draw on the wall?” will not help them to stop it because they probably don’t know and cannot articulate it any better than you can. Most of the time it is not a malicious behaviour, but instead a reaction to very complex emotions, random impulses and confusion. Instead ask the what questions, and notice how you and your child will be calmer and more focused on a positive future choice.

What to ask instead.

Instead when you do a behaviour that you would like to stop ask yourself the WHAT question instead.

  • What happened?
  • What was I feeling? What were you feeling?
  • What was I telling myself at the time? What did you tell yourself in your head?
  • What choice did I make?
  • What have I learned?
  • What can I do differently next time?

Asking the what question help you stay specific to the facts and stop yourself from blowing the event out of proportion. Asking what I was feeling and telling myself will help you to track back to the unconscious drivers that most likely created the result. Asking about your CHOICE helps to remind you that you were in charge of your choices and you had power and influence in the situation through your choices. Then asking what did I learn and what could I do differently pivots the focus to the future, so that you gather up the wisdom and learning and make a connection with a proactive positive choice for the next time a similar situation occurs.

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