The day I learned how to unleash the power of “Why”, my life and perspective changed.
“Why” is a key that can be used to unlock our deepest truths.
The Technique of WHY
If you think about our daily lives, you realize just how much we spend on the surface of our consciousness. We spend our time analyzing, planning, executing, and going through the motions.
Throughout all of this, we often ask ourselves “why”. For example, we often wonder why someone acts the way they do, why this or that happened, or why we feel the way we do. Asking ourselves this question is our opportunity to reach greater depths; to get down to the source of each issue and better understand our inner and outer world.
However, asking ourselves “why” once almost always falls short. Roots cannot be found with one dig. We need to dig and dig and dig until we uncover them. What is the root of the issue? Ask why a number of times and, with honesty, you’ll find it. I promise you, this simple technique is more powerful than it seems.
I read a finance book which was all about saving money and earning more. However, the book did not start out with retirement plans or investment facts, it started with the psychology behind money, and more specifically, it asked us why we wanted it to begin with. We all know that money is used to fulfill important human emotions that we need in order to feel balanced. However, the author told us that most people attending his seminars viewed money at a surface level, saying they wanted more “to travel” or “to save”. What they were missing was a deeper “why”.
When you ask why you want money, you say travel. But why do you want to travel? You want to travel so you can feel free. You want to save so you feel secure. Freedom and security are broad, simple concepts.
You always know you’ve reached your “why” when you find a simple, yet fundamental answer that reflects how we function as humans. Understanding this allows us to, in turn, understand ourselves.
In my personal relationships, I’ve discovered a newfound strength through asking “why”. In my past, I led with my ego because it gave me pride and what I thought was strength. (Of course, my ego still flares up because I am human, but now I am trying to approach life with this new tool.)
I now see that strength is found in vulnerability and releasing your pride. I am not always right. And I need to use my true strength to look further than justifying my feelings. I do this by asking why when it’s hard to do so. When I’m most hurt and upset, my ego rears its ugly head. I react angrily instead of processing things. Sometimes it takes a moment of solitary reflection, but I come back and ask myself, “Why did I just lash out?”
The answer comes back to some sort of basic human emotion like sadness or fear. I am sad because I feel rejected. I am scared because of the unknown. I am sad because you made a comment about something that I am insecure about. These are things everyone experiences.
When you strip away the anger to get down to the rawness underneath, you allow your innocent, inner child to speak through. Then I can come to the person and say, “I’m sorry for reacting this way. What you said hurt me or made me sad.”
Raw vulnerability and love are very rarely met with negativity. You take down the other’s defenses, which naturally go up when you react angrily. It not only diffuses the situation but allows both of you to see how your words have affected one another. This is the easiest path to mutual understanding.
**It’s important to remember that your instant, reactive emotions are often products of the ego. Asking “why” various times is the best way to break through the ego barrier to find the truth underneath.
Application: Personal Development
Tony Robbins is a famous speaker that holds seminars for thousands of people. In one of his seminars, a young woman stood up and asked Tony (in front of the large audience) how he could help her with her food issues. She said she was eating bad food at odd hours.
Tony did not spend time on the issue of food. He knows that the good stuff, the deeper parts of our consciousness, are shy. They need a few more whys in order to be convinced to leave the comfort of their hidden home. That’s why he brought it back to her childhood and her family. He soon discovered that this woman had a father who was a drug addict, and she had always been starved for his love.
The reason she wasn’t taking care of herself went far beyond lack of willpower. It went to a deeper side of herself that was unable to face the lack of relationship with her father. Instead, she turned to bad eating habits, a minor but destructive habit.
There are usually ways in which we are holding ourselves back in some area of our life. Are we not taking care of our mental/physical health, relationships or career? Things are not as simple as they seem. These facets of life are linked to our consciousness, and if we have issues with these, then we can be sure there are unresolved issues in our psyche as well.
Don’t worry, we all have issues. But that is why it is so essential to develop the tool of asking yourself “why” until you reach a profound and truthful answer. If we want to cure a disease, we can’t just tackle the symptoms. We have to heal ourselves from the source. Instead of examining our eating habits, we ask ourselves why we’ve developed them in the first place. Why leads to the source, which is the only thing powerful enough to give you lasting change.
For the longest time, I wanted to be a professor. That’s the whole reason I got my master’s degree. I enjoyed studying and teaching. I was enamored with what I thought professor-life was like. You only had to teach (my favorite thing!) a few hours a day, then you had the rest of the time to develop yourself. You also had time off during the winter and summer, so I thought I could still satisfy my traveler’s bug.
During my master’s, life hit me in the face with a frying pan. I quickly realized the harsh reality of professorship. They spent their lives in books and lab rooms, constantly doing research or publishing studies, fighting to keep their position. That is, if you can even get a position. Jobs for professors are few and far between, and you start off very low on the totem pole before ever getting a glimpse of tenure’s good graces.
My rose-colored glasses had been yanked off my face and reality was in plain view. Even if I could swallow that bitter pill, it meant I would have to go through even more schooling. Looking ahead to four years of an extremely rigorous PhD made me feel like I was staring down the barrel of a .45. Honestly, no one even finishes in four years– and I was not about to spend 5 years of my life in a library to be faced with the possibility of being jobless and in over my head with student debt when I got out.
–Sidenote: Let me just take a moment to give mad respect to professors and those who are getting your PhD. You are all so strong and amazing. Much love<3–
Of course, I quickly abandoned this dream. I wasn’t upset about my change of plans because you never get what you expect in life. The keyword here is expect.
I did, however, get exactly what I wanted.
If I go back to the truest reasons why I wanted this job, it was about my love for teaching, my love for freedom and travel, and the desire to create a semi-flexible schedule that would work with my life.
I had always known this was my why. But it wasn’t until recently, that I realized I had gotten exactly what I wanted in a different guise. I am now tutoring English in Sydney. I get to travel; I have flexibility. I have everything exactly as I wanted and I am so grateful for it.
I was able to reach all of this by following my why, and by letting go of the expectations of how my life should be. If I had left it at the surface of wanting to be a professor, I may have ended up wasting years of my life for a dream that I was forcing.
Fixating and being rigid in your ideas can lead to so much unhappiness. Instead, seek to understand your motives on a deeper level. Ask yourself why you want something to begin with. It will save you so much heartache.
This three-letter word can truly set you free.