Personal development can often seem complicated, convoluted, or downright boring. Try this one simple change, and be amazed at how much empowerment and meaning you can derive from the simplest of daily tasks.
I read a lot of self-improvement books. Or at least I try to read a lot of them. Often I pick up a book, start reading and then find that I just can't stay focused. I end up re-reading the same page over and over, and no matter how hard I try I can't get through the first couple of chapters. Usually it is because the language is too technical or dry or convoluted..."PhD talk" as I call it.
I'm not going to name names...(mostly because I don't want to suffer the backlash of "hey that's my favorite book, so now everything you say is garbage"), but it is my belief that self-help doesn't need to be complicated to be powerful. In fact the most powerful messages I have received were through simple concepts explained in a simple but effective way. That's where true genius lies: in pointing out something in such an artful way that the concept flows naturally into the mind of the reader and appears there almost as if it were common sense.
I also believe in delivering the entire concept with no holds barred so that others can benefit from the experience and not feel cheated out of their time or baited into some money making scheme... So without further ado here is the one thing that you should try to seriously catapult your personal growth: ask the question why to everything you do.
Like the proverbial 2 year old I want to encourage you to wake up, brush your teeth, and then ask why you are brushing them. Try it even just for a single day as an experiment: write the word WHY on your hand and every time you are about to do something ask yourself why. And then explore what your mind has to offer.
Next I am going to discuss why 'why' is so powerful, what this exercise will bring up, and how if you direct the answers properly it can give you so much in return for such a very small word.
Why Asking Why is So Important
Anyone who has read Simon Sinek's "Find Your Why" (a book I was able to get through!) will know that there are three layers to our actions. The outer layer is What. What we do (wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, feed the dog). The middle layer is How. How we do things (set an alarm, microwave oatmeal, take the bus, scoop kibble with a measuring cup). And the innermost layer is the Why. Why do you do those things and why do you do them in that way. And why is secretly at the core of everything we do - no matter how small.
Whys are actually really interesting. Our culture is obsessed with the Whats. What did you do last weekend? What shows do you watch? What brand are you wearing? What kind of dog is that? What project are you working on? It is a nice way to start a conversation or learn about other people, but it kind of glosses the surface layer of a person. Imagine how much more rich and interesting our conversations would be if we started asking more why questions! Why do you like that type of show? Why did you choose this kind of dog? You will learn so much more about the person, and it could spark a much more deep and interesting conversation.
Whys are the window into our values. We can actually add another layer to Simon's find your why onion. Inside of Why is the core of Value (copywrite 2021 by Amanda Aten Coaching!). The things and the concepts that we value drive our Why's.
Why do you scoop kibble with a measuring cup? Because you want to make sure your pet is fed the right amount. Why is that important? Because you care about the health of your pet and want it to live a long time. Why do you want that? Because you love them and want to spend as much time with them as possible. See? A small what with a BIG why. We value our pet and we value their health. So next time you scoop kibble you can think about this as not just as something you have to do, but as an act of love for your valued pet.
It adds a lot more substance and meaning to your life to have a solid understanding of why you do what you do. You will feel more empowered and also grounded in your actions and how they connect to your values, and you will gain a deeper understanding of yourself.
Gives you an opportunity to evaluate habits. If you ask why and your initial answer is related to an established habit "That's how I was taught... I'm not sure... I don't really know... I always do it this way" this is a really valuable opportunity to question whether or not the habit is helpful to you, something that you agree with, and that it gives value to your current situation. Maybe the habit was taught to you and you've never really thought about why you do it or what value it adds to your life. Maybe the habit used to work for you (I was poor and ate the bulk super value pack coco-poofs - don't judge me!), but it just isn't the best fit anymore (time for greek yogurt and fresh fruits please).
It's an invitation to evaluate if there is another option that fits you better and to adjust your actions accordingly. An opportunity to be mindful about the choices you make.
How to Optimize Your Why Conversation
Now that I have hopefully sold you on the value of asking why, I'll go over a few tricks to get the most value out of the exercise.
Keep asking until you can't. Don't just stop at the first why - keep asking and see how far you can dig. Just like in the kibble example the root of the answer was a lot more complicated than first response. Keep asking until you can't anymore. You'll get the most information and uncover your deepest values.
See if there is a better HOW for your Why. Maybe you find yourself scrolling through Facebook multiple times a day - okay maybe 20+ times a day - and the reason is because you are bored or lonely. You can ask yourself if there is a better way to fill your needs or get what you want and evaluate if there is a better or more satisfying HOW option available. You can reach out to a friend, send pictures from last weekend to your family, practice meditation, whatever is the best way to fill the need behind the why.
Make sure it is about YOU and OWN IT. Sometimes when you ask why you will get a response like "because I have to" or "this is the way people do things" or "such and such person wants me to". None of those answers are about you. The heart of your why needs to be YOU. Your wants, your needs, your values. Keep searching and digging until you can make it about you.
Why do you drive your kids to school? Well legally you are supposed to... but is the real answer because you value education? Why choose to drive them instead of take the bus? Is it because you want to make sure they get to school safely? Are you showing through your actions that you value education and safety?
Why do you pay your bills? Is it because you have to? Maybe it's really because you don't want to get evicted and have bad credit. Or because you value financial stability and accountability. You see how it works!
Whatever your whats are or who they pertain to make sure that at the end of the day the why is about you. This is your life and everything you choose to do should tie back to what is important to you. That's the heart of that fancy buzzword us coaches like to throw around: empowerment!
Align your HOW with your highest value. This one is really next-level. Once you have your answer, your why, and the value behind it you can evaluate that value to make sure that it is your highest value. Let's say that you only live a mile or two away from work (wouldn't that be nice?) but you are driving there because it is convenient and you have a car. The value at play here is time and convenience. But what if you value health more than those things? You may consider walking or biking to work and change your how to meet that higher value.
A Value Discovering Profession
As a Happiness and Wellbeing Life Coach I help people to discover their innermost values and priorities and to make internal and external adjustments in order to align their values with their lives.
If you want to learn more please reach out to me! You can Schedule a Free Consultation about coaching and how it can help you. I would absolutely love to talk with you.
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Happiness & Wellbeing Life Coach
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