“Why-questions trap us in [the] rearview mirror. What-questions move us forward to our future.” — Tasha Eurich
WHY is a dangerous question when focused inward.
It dwells on the past with little regard for the future. If your goal is self awareness, then follow WHY with WHAT without hesitation. WHY focuses on the problem. WHAT focuses on the way forward.
Tasha Eurich’s Increase Your Self-Awareness With One Simple Fix TEDx Talk uncovers an interesting phenomenon. The more you introspect with WHY, the more you separate yourself from the truth. Emotion and a sea of cognitive biases cloud your judgment. The answers you arrive at may feel good, but they are often wrong.
WHY can’t I get a good grade in Algebra?
This question usually results in faulty conclusions:
Mathematics is like a foreign language to me.
I’m not good at taking tests.
I’m not good at math.
Now consider following that impulsive WHY with WHAT...
WHAT can I do to improve my grade in Algebra?
This question focuses your attention on solutions:
Join a study group.
Work with the teacher after school.
Get additional practice problems.
Focus on understanding, not memorization of formulas.
It does not dwell on painful memories. It has no time for self flagellation. It narrows in on a way forward rooted in self improvement.
WHY is the primary incantation of the curious. It has unlocked countless discoveries and innovations. When focused outward, it is a powerful talisman and razor of truth. When focused inward, it is a house of mirrors... deceptive and confusing.
If you seek self awareness, use WHAT to light the way.
🤔 Food for Thought:
Do you stop at WHY when being introspective?
How often has WHY become a club for beating yourself up?
How often has WHY revealed the truth about yourself?
⚙️ One Small Step:
The next time you find yourself using WHY focused inward, treat it solely as the identification of a problem. Follow quickly with WHAT to identify possible solutions. Then act. Treat each solution as an experiment seeking growth... improvement.