Why Versus What
Since I was able-to-speak-years-old, my favorite word has been, “WHY,” and my favorite pastime has been asking it. WHY are we here? WHY are things the way they are? WHY do I act the way I act? WHY do I have these beliefs about myself and about the world? WHY do people make the decisions they make?
WHY did someone decide to pair together the two of the most awful foods on earth - a boiled egg and mayonnaise - call it a deviled egg and declare it a summertime delicacy?
I love the WHY. In fact, I have spent so much time in therapy trying to dissect the why’s that all of my therapist’s children have very, very secure college funds.
Then we read Dr. Susan David’s book, Emotional Agility in the SheHive book club a few months ago and a passage about the importance of letting go of “WHY” in favor of “WHAT do I need now?” left me on the floor.
We Don’t Really Know What We Think We Know
We’ll never be able to accurately figure out the WHY because the stories and experiences that shape our exploratory thoughts are wholly inaccurate. We tell ourselves stories to organize our experiences and keep ourselves mentally well, but as Dr. David writes, those exploratory thoughts take great liberties with the truth because, “our inner voice is rarely neutral or dispassionate.”
So, while we may find an answer to our, “WHY?” it is very likely that what we have found is so clouded by internal judgement that it is not the whole truth or, in some cases, the truth at all.
Instead, Dr. David posits we need to be asking ourselves WHAT we need moving forward - to make decisions that match up with the way we now want to live.
Asking, “WHY?” keeps us in the past and if we are to ever move forward and step into a future we want, we have to let them go.
Still Not Giving ‘Em Up
Now, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ll ever to fully be able to let go of the why. Figuring out a “WHY” - even knowing that my solution has the possibility of being completely false - brings me great satisfaction. I feel so smart, and accomplished, when I finally land upon an answer. And I feel even smarter and more accomplished when, upon, learning more - my answers are challenged and I have to grow into a new reality.
But I am committing to start asking, “WHAT?” more often. WHAT do I need? WHAT do I want? WHAT can I do with what I have here in front of me, right now? The forward motion - the growth - feels good. It’s satisfying. It’s also helping me to understand that maybe, just maybe, the WHY doesn’t matter nearly as much as I thought it did.
This June I’m committing to the theme of letting go - especially of my need to always know WHY. I invite you to join me. We’ll have quotes to inspire you all month on our Facebook page and, in our Facebook group, a series of prompts to help answer the question of WHAT you need to move forward.
Are you in? Comment below with one thing you need today to feel more whole. I look forward to reading your responses!
With much love and gratitude,
Ursula Adams, MSPOD
6/2/2021 06:45:21 am
I enjoyed reading your article on "WHY?" and the difference between asking WHY vs WHAT. I think you're right in saying that we can't know the answer to WHY, but it's great to keep asking ourselves these questions!
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