Have you ever noticed how different sorts of questions can either keep us stuck or get us moving?
Language is interesting, as altering the questions we ask ourselves can change whether we remain focused on one particular thing or start to widen our perspective.
Sometimes we want to stay in the same place. When we want to gain a deep understanding of the reasons for something, for example. Other times we might want to move our thoughts onwards, taking ourselves in a different direction.
Why? questions are important when we want depth. In fact we tend to encourage our children to ask Why questions, it’s being inquisitive isn’t it? Helping us to understand all aspects of something.
And sometimes that’s important, understanding the “Why?”. It can allow us to bring things into perspective. Understand someone else’s motivation, allow us to acknowledge that things were complex at the time. There was a lot going on and things are different now. These can all be useful things to be aware of.
However Why? questions do have a tendency to keep us stuck in the same place. What if we don’t find the answer? We drill further down and down. The answer to why we’re feeling the way we do must be somewhere in there, right? Where did it come from?
If we find ourselves doing this over and over and not gaining new useful insight or perspectives in the process, then it may be time to move onto How questions.
“How” is what’s called a process question, it’s less reflective than Why and is more of a “doing “question". Asking ourselves How questions gets our mind searching for solutions and can help us identify ways forward, become aware of different choices and possibilities.
For example How can I start to feel differently?
Why and How are both important. What’s useful is becoming aware of when we are stuck in the Whys and not making progress. That might be an indication it’s time to move to asking some Hows.