Why You Should Never Ask Why

by James A Lopata

“Why isn’t this working?”

“Why do we do it this way?”

“Why can’t I change?”

‘Why’ questions almost always focus on the problem.

They cause us to ruminate and go deeper into whatever is troubling or vexing. ‘Why’ can trap us in a downward spiral of “why can’t I figure this out," “why doesn’t this work the way it is supposed to,” “why won’t things get better,” and other questions that lead to more questions and more questions and deeper, darker places. In the psychology of depression, this is called ruminating and it can develop into serious doubts and anxiety, to debilitating mental illness and even suicide.

When we ask ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions, we are more apt to focus on solutions and to open up possibilities. We are more likely to focus more broadly, upward and toward air and light.

“What can we do make this work?” “How would we like to move ahead?” “What can be done to make my life better right now?”

These queries move us forward, keep us engaged. They free of us from the prison of focussing too narrowly. They release us into new, unexpected, and liberating ways of being.

Don't ask why. Ask what!

What could prompt you to ask more what questions?