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Just Ask “Why?”

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“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” – Dr. Seuss

We often do things without really thinking about why we do them.  And we have patterns in our life that we aren’t sure how we started.  In fact, we often aren’t aware of basic information about ourselves.

There is a remedy to all of this.  When you want to know something about you, simply ask “Why?”

As you listen for an answer, don’t force one to come.  Pay attention to the first thought that comes to mind, but don’t try to pull it out of your brain.  This is the answer you are looking for.

If that answer is still not satisfactory, ask “Why?” again.  Keep going until you have hit the “root” of your question.

Here’s an example:

At a job I had a couple years back, I had sales duties.  I did fairly well at this, but I always had a bit of anxiety when I approached people.  When I asked myself “Why?” here’s what I got back:

Q: Why do I feel anxiety when I approach people?
A: I assume they will respond to me negatively.
Q: Why would someone respond to me negatively?
A: If I approach someone as “me” they will reject me.
Q: Why would someone reject me?
A: They probably wouldn’t, there is no reason to. I’m simply holding a belief that is not true.

In the end, I realized that my anxiety with approaching people had to do with a belief that I held about myself (one that was not real, but one that I believed nonetheless).  But, I wouldn’t have connected the two had I not questioned myself.

Plus, I eventually did away with this belief that was holding me back.  But, for a long time, I didn’t even know it was there.  Asking “why” has allowed me to uncover things that I didn’t know were even a part of me. And that has made all the difference. 🙂

Self knowledge has depths that many of us never begin to explore.  In fact, it’s probably impossible to know everything there is to know about you.  If you lived forever you could infinitely keep questioning yourself.  So get started right now:

Why do you do what you do?

What are some techniques you use to learn about yourself?  Share your ideas in the comments!

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Jay Wigley July 20, 2009, 10:43 pm

    This post is a nice little nugget, isn’t it? Perfect length, nothing extra or unnecessary. Really, a nice job.

  • The Gooroo @ Finance Advisory Stop July 21, 2009, 7:19 am

    Great post Amanda — this is something I would have never thought of. Although, now that I do, you’re completely right. I really like the questions you posed, and the simple answers you provided. Just goes to show that sometimes humans over think things.
    .-= The Gooroo @ Finance Advisory Stop´s last blog ..Moving – For The Better Or Worse? =-.

  • Positively Present July 21, 2009, 10:22 am

    Wonderful post! I agree that one of the best things we can do when we feel strongly about something (good or bad) is to ask “Why?” I’m sure we’d all be amazed at the answers we could come up with. This is wonderful, simple advice and I’m going to put it into action!
    .-= Positively Present´s last blog ..happiness doesn’t just happen =-.

  • Lezlee Collier July 21, 2009, 11:01 am

    Great post. Really helped me think about some things and I sent it to some friends I thought would like it as well.

  • Amanda Linehan July 21, 2009, 9:10 pm

    Hi Jay – Thanks. This is a good nugget-sized post. 😉

    Hi Gooroo – I think sometimes we believe that information about ourselves is hard to get to. All I’m trying to communicate is that sometimes you just have to ask. Thanks for your comment. Hope you stop by again soon. 🙂

    Hi Dani – Yeah, asking “why?” is simple, but can be easily overlooked. 🙂

    Hi Lezlee – Thanks for passing the article along! Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you in the comments again. 🙂

  • Tess The Bold Life July 22, 2009, 10:19 am

    Hi Amanda,

    I like your question for oneself however when we ask a child or a spouse why it makes them defensive.

    For me I like to do Bryon Katie’s work and I also journal. Great post and I like the conversation with yourself as an example. It made it very clear!
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Magic Monday Freebie from The Bottom Line Book Club =-.

  • Amanda Linehan July 23, 2009, 3:14 pm

    Hi Tess – Yeah, I didn’t think about that when I wrote this, but asking “why” of other people can lead to conflict!

  • Lance July 24, 2009, 4:13 pm

    Hi Amanda,
    This is good…and timely!

    I have something I have to do – a volunteer position I am ready to relinquish. And, I have this very hard time trying to approach others about taking it over. So, this is a perfect place for me to ask that question…and see what it reveals!

    Thank you! And…I hope I find some answers!!
    .-= Lance´s last blog ..Leading From Within =-.

  • Henie July 24, 2009, 8:59 pm

    Hi Amanda…

    Insightful post, thank you! Very often we do tend to overlook the*why* of things but sometimes we really may not know why. The way you organized your questions to yourself however is very useful.

    I agree with Tess that asking why can put us in the defensive, especially children.

    For me, I have learned that sometimes the question needs to be *what?*

    Thanks for getting me thinking on this:~)
    .-= Henie´s last blog ..An Open Letter to God =-.

  • Amanda Linehan July 26, 2009, 8:54 pm

    Hi Lance – Good luck! I hope you find those answers!

    Hi Henie – I find that I often don’t exactly know why I do things. This line of questioning has been helpful. I’m curious to know how you use the question “what?” 🙂

  • Henie July 26, 2009, 10:14 pm

    Hi Amanda…

    I’ve learned to use the word “what” with my teenage son for a number of reasons:

    First, sometimes (as you have pointed out) we truly don’t know why something is or why it happened.

    Second, my experience has been that when I ask my son *why,* it automatically puts him on the defensive because it focuses on the event rather than the positive resolution or action.

    So, in the end, when I use what happened instead of why it happened, it is more comfortable to speak of what happened because this we know. Usually, once what happened is clear, we can move on, otherwise, we could get stuck in the why, which will most likely not change the event(s) anyway. *Why* can usually leave us being attached to the outcome of things rather than the resolution.

    I hope this makes sense and thanks for asking.
    .-= Henie´s last blog ..Remnants =-.

  • Amanda Linehan July 27, 2009, 9:09 pm

    Hi Henie – That makes sense. “Why” does make people defensive as Tess pointed out. I guess when you talk to your son, being able to describe “what” is less painful than having to figure out “why.”

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