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Stuck In Life? Stop Asking This Question

Oct 18, 2007
"Why?" seems like a good question, doesn't it? I certainly used to think so. I've asked "Why?" often in my life so I must have thought it was a good question. Or maybe I never had thought about it or noticed what happened when I asked that particular question.

Over time, I've gone from the questions of a toddler (Why is the sky blue?) to the questions of a child (Why did my dog die?) to the questions of an adult ("Why did that man break up with me?). "Why?" used to be one of my favorite questions. Not any more.

A few years ago someone offered me a very different perspective on "Why?" I started paying attention to what happened when I asked myself or others this simple question. I noticed that "Why?" was very seldom a useful question. In fact, I discovered it was often a question that worked against me. Now I do my best to not ask myself or others "Why?"

Why Not Ask Why?

In your internal conversations, are you asking yourself "Why?" on a regular basis? Why do I want that? Why am I feeling depressed? Why can't I be satisfied with the job I have? Why can't I figure out what I want in life? Why did I say that?

Though you may not realize it, (I certainly didn't!) there's a judgment implied in the question. "Why?" is really more like "What's the matter with me?" or "Why can't I be different than I am?"

When you ask yourself "Why?" you experience (subtly or not so subtly) one or more of the following:

* You're in your head: analyzing, trying to figure out the answer. Even if you don't know (and much of the time we truly don't know the "real reason" we're thinking, saying, doing, or wanting something) you'll do your best to come up with an answer. Even if you have to make it up!

* You hear the implied judgment and so you start down that road. You criticize or blame yourself. You rationalize. You justify. You feel defensive, bad, wrong, or wronged.

* Your energy is drained.

Rarely, rarely, rarely do you get an answer to "Why?" that helps you move forward. More likely, asking "Why?" will get you stuck and off track. It takes your focus away from where you're going and how to get there, leaving you circling around in your mind. Asking "Why?" stops you. It gets in the way of creating more of what you truly want.

I have seen this with clients when they discover something that lights them up. They immediately start asking "Why do I want that?" or "Why does that light me up?" "Why?" is truly an unanswerable question when it comes to what lights you up and your passions. They simply are what they are.

More useful questions at this point would be "What does that look like?" and "What could I do to have more of that in my life?" and "What small step could I take towards that?"

(You may be wondering about asking "Why?" of others or them asking it of you. It has the same effects! It doesn't work well in those situations either.)

"Why?" is useful for scientific inquiries (and perhaps in therapy). However, it doesn't help us create happy, fulfilling, passionate lives with warm, loving relationships. And isn't some version of that what we all want?

What Else Can You Do?

If you take "Why?" out of your vocabulary, what in the world do you say or do instead?

One option is to just notice. If you want something, if you light up about something, if you're passionate about something, if someone does something you don't like, accept that is what is. Trying to find out why is just a distraction.

Another option is to ask different questions. Rather than "Why?" ask questions that expand, questions that look forward such as:

* What can I do next?
* What do I love about this?
* What will help me to create that?
* What do I want to do now?
* What can I learn from this?
* What do I really want in this situation?
* What's the lesson here?
* How can I do something different the next time?
* Who could help me with this?

In Your Life

I do believe you'll find not asking "Why?" to be very helpful. It's a small shift that can make a big difference. Here's how you can start to play with this idea.

1) Check it out for yourself. Notice what happens when you ask yourself or others "Why?"

Can you sense a subtle or not so subtle judgment in the question? How does this question affect you and your energy? What does it do to your ability to take action toward what you truly want? How does it impact your interactions with others?

You don't have to do anything different yet. Just see for yourself how this question works or doesn't work in your life.

2) Now try experimenting with some alternatives.

When you catch yourself asking or getting ready to ask "why?" make a different choice, such as I suggested in "What Else Can You Do?" Notice what happens when you say or do something different.

3) If you like what happens when you don't ask why, make a commitment to drop "Why?" from your vocabulary. Over time, this will be easier and easier to do.

If you want to get unstuck... If you want to move forward in your life... If you want to have more ease and fun along life's journey.. stop asking "Why?" I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

About the Author
Bonnie McFarland works with women at midlife who are bored, stuck, or restless and wondering what to do with the rest of their lives. Visit www.labellavia.com for her free e-book and ezine to create more pleasure, passion, and purpose in your life.
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