How many times have you wondered why you felt a certain way, why you reacted to something a certain way, or why you weren’t able to do what you thought you wanted to do?
How much time have you spent searching for the answer to why?
If you are like most of us, you have spent more time than you would like trying to understand why you do something or feel something or think something.
It’s a common question, and one that we are typically taught as children. When we misbehave our parents and teachers ask us why we did that. When we say something we aren’t supposed to we are asked to explain ourselves.
Being expected to know and understand the why of our behavior is something that we are subjected to our entire lives.
Tradition teaches us that to understand is to accept. If we understand why people act certain ways we can understand how to help them change.
If we understand why people do things we can try to avoid it.
If we understand why someone feels hurt when we do something, we can shift our behavior so as not to hurt them anymore.
I offer a different question.
Rather than ask why, I suggest we ask HOW.
Determining the how of behavior and feelings will give us far more information than simply understanding the why.
You may wonder what I’m talking about. After all, aren’t they similar? If I don’t understand why I react a certain way, I can’t change it. Right?
Traditional therapy tells us that we need to understand the roots of our feelings. In school I remember studying various schools of thought around behavior and feeling, and they all revolved around identifying the why.
But let’s look at the how of our behaviors and thoughts.
Can we first agree that our behaviors are led by our thoughts and feelings? And that those thoughts and feelings have something that makes us feel them?
For instance, if my friend comes to my house and I am nervous about how clean it is…is it really the other person’s presence that makes me nervous?
Or is it instead something I’m telling myself about their presence that is making me nervous?
Let me explain.
When my friend comes over there is literally nothing that she does that causes me to be nervous.
So there must be something in between her arrival and my nervous that tells me to be nervous.
In examining that, is it more important to know why I am nervous, or how?
Suppose I get nervous because when I was a kid and my friends came over my mother would yell at me to clean my room, tell her I was embarrassing her, and ground me after they left.
How would knowing that help me? Sure, it might solve a mystery. It could make me angry at my mom.
But how would it help me?
Now, let’s consider another example.
Suppose I get nervous because I am hearing a voice inside my head. Maybe it’s my mother’s voice yelling at me. Maybe it’s my own voice telling me I am letting someone down. Maybe it’s just an indistinct voice judging me for my housecleaning skills.
Who the voice belongs to is less important than that I am hearing a voice talking to me.
Armed with this knowledge I could then begin to make some changes. I could make the voice change in pitch. I could move it further away, or to the other side. Turn the volume up or down. Even make it sound like a voice that had just sucked in helium so it is all high pitched and funny sounding.
By making those shifts, the reaction I have to the voice begins to change. It takes the sting out. By understanding how I am feeling nervous I have tools and resources I can use to begin to change things.
You see, the why simply serves to satisfy curiosity. It explains where a behavior began, but often does nothing for how to end it.
The how of a behavior gives us the opportunity to change it. It allows us to explore alternative hows, which lead to alternative behaviors.
My challenge for you is to pay attention to your how. The next time you are tempted to wonder why you are doing something, interrupt yourself and ask how. Slow down your movie and see what you notice about what happens right before the feeling or thought strikes you.
Once you identify that, you will have the power to make true change in your life.
If you’d like to explore this further, click here to schedule a free NLP Discovery Session with me. We will talk about your goals and dreams, and I’ll answer any questions you have about NLP and how it can influence your life!