Recently, a friend was telling me about a situation that was troubling him. In detail, he described his version and perspective of another person’s motives and what she had done to him. I realized how many times in my life I had done the exact same thing. Spent time, energy and a good deal of thought trying to figure out “WHY?”
- Why did this happen?
- Why did they do this?
- Why do I feel this way?
- Why are they acting this way?
- Why me?
I have been taken down this spiral many times looking for motivations, which was so seldom helpful, and even more difficult to decipher. I realized that I often don’t fully understand my own motivations, yet I would spend hours trying to figure out someone else’s.
Can you remember having a conversation with a friend as you explain someone else’s upbringing and background, and then move straight into speculation and conjecture about why he did what he did? “It must be because he had this happen to him, and now he has trust issues. That’s why he…”
We can spiral deep into the question of “why”—why we are a certain way, or why we feel the way we do. These answers are not easily or if ever able to be uncovered. We can start questioning if the universe is against us or spend a large amount of time in our heads wishing things were different than they are. None of these things helps us deal with or cope with the issue.
I recently read that we would be better off if we started asking different questions:
- What happened?
- What can I do about it?
- What do I feel?
- What would I like to be different?
- What changes can I make?
This is shift to WHAT instead of WHY. When we ask “what” questions, we are much more likely to start focusing on solutions, acceptance, or practice letting go. By being curious and looking at the situation without too much conjecture, we may be able to see different options, solutions, and get an understanding of what our best decisions are. By asking “what” questions we can get to a “how” to move forward. When we are in this place of what, we are much more likely to cope with or deal with the incident in a healthy way, or at least one we can live with and move on. We are also less likely to judge other people or their motives, and more likely to give them some grace. We may even realize that why people do something is not actually important when deciding how to move forward. Whatever happened is in the past, and ruminating isn’t likely to be productive.
Instead, we should focus on the future. Can we move forward with certain people in our lives? Would anything need to change to make that acceptable? We can answer these questions and take action to make productive changes. This will keep us focused on what is ahead of us versus what is behind us.