Stop asking “why”

I think you ask “why” too much and “what” too little. Asking “why” is a backward-facing activity that examines the past searching for excuses and someone to blame.  Asking “why” may be useful on the psychologist couch or in science class but it’s not as useful for leaders.

“Why” feels good.

There’s finality to answering “why?” You may feel a sense of accomplishment because you figured something out. But what did you accomplish?

Don’t get me wrong. I like to blame others for my problems as much as the next person. It’s easy and relieves me of responsibility.

Leadership and “why.”

Leadership is always about forward-facing movement not backward-facing excuses. It’s about change. “Why” won’t take you there.

“What” not “why” shows the way.

  1. What can you do today that moves you toward tomorrow’s goal?
  2. What can you do that steps you forward into sustaining relationships?
  3. What behaviors move you toward career advancement?

The ability to explain why something happened is admirable but frequently useless. On the other hand, defining forward-facing behaviors that create a preferred future is wise. Wisdom is practical and actionable.

Confession time.

I love “why.” “I wonder why they manipulate others,” represent an excursion into speculative, excuse-making bliss. Frankly, I’m seeing “why” as a colossal waste of time.

I wonder why I’m so interested in why?

An experiment

Banish “why” from your vocabulary for 24 hours. Only ask “what.” I think you’ll experience a taste of forward momentum. For example, don’t ask yourself why you are exhausted. Ask, “What can I do to restore my enthusiasm and energy.” You don’t need a reason why. You need a change in behavior.


Has asking “why” waylaid you?