But WHY?

Imagine your cute lil four year-old self.

You’re all squishy cheeks and wide-eyed wonder. You follow your grown-ups around, constantly asking why?

Why is your hair white? Why don’t spiders get stuck in their own webs? Why can’t I put the cat in the microwave?

There’s a pretty good chance a grown-up rounded on you one day (or many days) and yelled at you not to ask why ONE MORE TIME SO HELP ME.

Some kids respond to this kind of dressing down with the hilariously infuriating, somewhat inevitable… why? Others, mortified at being in trouble, will eventually learn not to ask perplexing questions.

This is a major bummer for your four year-old self and a pretty serious loss for your grown-up self.

When we stop asking why things happen, we lose so much: our innate sense of wonder and curiosity. Our open-minded perspective. Our ability to get to the core of an issue.

Those are pretty crucial elements of being an emotionally literate and confident adult, and so learning to ask why again is the gateway to getting some answers.

Let me give you an example.

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, had a particularly incandescent fit of road rage recently.

We’d had a conversation about the power of why in getting to know yourself just a few days earlier.

She called me afterwards — rage now replaced with excitement — about how quickly she’d discovered something about herself in just a few moments (and without having to pony up for therapy).

“This asshole was parked right over my driveway and it made me so angry I wanted to scream. But obviously I had to wait for him to come and move his car, so while I was stuck I asked myself why it made me so angry.

The first thing that came to mind was that it was a massive waste of my time. So then I asked why that made me so mad, and it’s the feeling that this dude thinks he’s better than me, which makes me crazy.

But when I asked why again, I got down to a third layer, which felt like it was way down in my body, and it was that this guy is breaking the rules, and I try so, so hard to be good.”

OOOH GIRL. Yes you do.

And where it gets really interesting is if you can ask some more questions. Why are you always trying so hard? What does it mean to be good? What would happen if you diverted some of that energy, and where would you put it?

This is where why gets you.

It cuts through all the BS to get down to the core of what you’re feeling, and it opens up a whole array of other questions that can lead you deeper into yourself.

It’s for this reason that why is the most common question I ask these days — both of myself and of everybody else. I’m basically having a second childhood.

If I’m talking to a client, there’s no better way to dig deeper into a shallow statement than to ask gently, “Why is that?”, and asking why something is important to them is one of the fastest ways I know to get to know someone.

There’s also no better way to get past an avoidant reflex in myself than to scribble down “Why don’t I want to answer that?”

And then, letting my hand do the talking, continuing to ask why of each new answer, until, down at the very core of it, I find a younger version of myself, trying to make sense of the world and to do what will make people love me.

Why is the question that drives every great story, and every great discovery.

Apart from love, I think that curiosity is our most powerful impulse, so don’t be satisfied with the first answer. Push back against the shallow, avoidant, thoughtless answers.

Dig down a layer, and then another, until you find that sweet-cheeked little wonder muffin and can pick them up to show them all the truth that’s out there.