By Randy Cale, PH.D
Many years ago, I heard the saying “You have a choice: You can live life studying the roots or you can enjoy the fruits. But you can’t do both.”
What does this have to do with life satisfaction? The fruits of life are where we get value and happiness. It’s the good stuff. We want to enjoy all the fruits that life offers but why don’t we get more it? For many of us, we get caught focusing on the “roots” of life. How so? One way we do this is by asking questions that drive us into the “roots.” WHY? WHY? WHY? We make the mistake of asking “WHY” with relentless pursuit. We do it to ourselves and we do it to others, constantly exploring the roots. To give you a sense of how the mind works, the “WHY” questions can sound like any of the following:
• Why did you hit your sister?
• Why don’t you eat your veggies?
• Why do you have to fight with me all the time?
• Why can’t you just do your homework?
• Why don’t you listen?
•Why are you so angry?
• Why do I keep over-eating?
• Why don’t I just get it?
• Why do I keep making the same mistakes?
• Why do I keep falling for the wrong type?
• Why can’t I get ahead in life?
Why questions virtually never lead to change
How do I know that this is true? Because everyone asks the WHY questions and virtually no one finds an answer that leads to real change! When is the last time you asked your children one of the above (or similar) WHY questions and they responded with an answer that allowed for real change? I doubt that you can find one. I also doubt that you can point to any real change within your relationships or within yourself after asking WHY a hundred times. It just doesn’t work. Notice, however, that the WHY questions do keep the mind active. They give us a way to keep thinking about the problems, we can beat ourselves up, and we can beat up our loved ones, but nothing really changes with the WHY question.
Why doesn’t WHY work?
WHY doesn’t work as a behavior change question because the mind is asking a question it rarely can answer correctly. There could be 100 answers (all theories) about WHY something happens and yet none can be proven. It’s like going fishing; there are thousands of fish and only one “fish” provides the correct answer. You just don’t ever discover it. It’s not within the realm of possibility. It is a torturous process, and it makes us feel like we are working at a solution. But again, it rarely works.
Turn to HOW and away from WHY
“HOW” questions are the secret juice to getting it done. It’s the rocket fuel of change that sets the mind in the direction of solving problems and finding solutions. It has inherent movement attached. HOW brings energy and direction. Here are some examples:
• How can I choose a diet and stick to it?
• How do I create a system at home that brings harmony to parenting?
• How do I get up early and exercise each day?
• How can I become a partner who finds love everywhere I turn?
• How does my neighbor find the time to get fit?
• How do I create financial security?
• How can I help my kids stop fighting and whining?
If I want to change a behavior, it is better to ask HOW do I change that. In doing so, you will notice that action is required. The WHY could allow for endless talking, at yourself and others, but no action. If you get serious with the HOW questions, you then are compelled to dig into the actual answers, for which there is good data. In fact, there is great information with clear answers to any of the HOW questions that you seriously explore. So, first step, walk away from asking WHY. Just give it up. Then, if serious about a real change in some area of your life or your family’s lives, start digging into it with a few very focused HOW questions. With your good brain, Google and human resources available, you can develop a proven plan that will work. In fact, you will know you are serious about real change if and when you start obsessing the how to get it done and abandon the WHY of it all. Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.