This week, I’m talking about a line of questioning that is critical to my coaching work: the who, what, why, when, where, how, and what questions. These are the questions whose asking and answering enable transformation. Yesterday, I talked about identifying the things you want to achieve, inclusive of short-term goals, long-term goals, and eternal goals. Today, I’m talking about understanding WHY.
Asking why is like peeling back the layers of an onion. The first layer is this papery skin that you don’t want to eat. Even the second layer is still like half-paper and half-onion. It’s not until the third layer and below that you start to get into the yummy stuff. Asking why is just like that. You have to ask at least 3 whys to get at the good stuff.
Here’s an example. Janie says she wants to add 5 lbs to her back squat. I ask her, “why?”
“Because I used to be able to squat 250 lbs. in high school.”
“And why is that important to you now?”
“Well, I guess I felt more confident in myself when I was in high school.”
“Why is that relevant to who you are and what you’re trying to do today?”
“I think I lost my way somewhere, and being able to be strong–and proud of myself for being strong–might help remind me of who I really am and what I’m capable of. I’m not happy with my job, and I’m tired of being single, and I just want to be better.”
You might laugh at that example because it can’t really be that simple, can it? But yeah, it actually can be that simple. I have similar conversations to this all the time. Most people aren’t used to being asked why, but it you persist and dig deeper, they usually already know why and just need to say it. They don’t come out and say it on the first pass because they feel vulnerable. Coming up with surface answers is a defensive mechanism, but asking and listening brings those defenses down.
You don’t need a ‘coach’ to practice this. Try asking yourself, “why?” and then listening respectfully to your own answers. You might get some superficial answers at first, but then question the deeper motivations behind them.
“Why does that feeling exist?” Or, “Why does that thing matter?”
“Why do I want that?”
You’ll probably come up against your own defenses and negative self-beliefs, but if you keep digging you will get to gold. Listen to yourself and understand yourself. This will bolster your determination to achieve what you’ve set out to do, and help you find the path.
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