Who, What, When, Where, Why, How
Six simple questions taught to us from an early age. There to (hopefully) solve any issue we encounter.
2020 has been the year I’ve been asking myself more questions. And I’ve discovered that Why is the most important and How is the least.
Why reaches into a place within my soul, my intuition or gut feeling. When I coach clients, asking why, five times in a row can elicit a lot of information. It is also a question that can drive us scatty when a child is asking it over and over. But can you see why they ask it? They are trying to really figure out how this answer you give them, will fit into their world. Why shows us our deep motivations for what we are doing. As I go through my life, asking myself this one question has opened more doors for me than ever asking How?
Before I left my teaching career, I was at pains with making the decision. Deep down, I knew that it wasn’t a career break I was about to take, I knew I was leaving the profession. And if I had stopped asking myself HOW to do this, and asked myself WHY I was doing this, I would have left at least three years earlier than I did.
The more HOW questions I asked, the fewer answers I arrived at and the more anxiety I felt.
Why encourages you to feel the question and get a deeper understanding of it.
In the 1960s, American Neuroscientist Paul MacLean formulated the Triune Brain model which is based on the division of the brain into three distinct regions. The first region he called the Reptilian or Primal Brain. This part of our brain is in control of our innate and automatic self-preserving behaviour patterns which ensure our survival. It oversees our Fight or Flight Response. When I was leaving my teaching career, every time I asked myself How I would manage? Fear would take over and I stopped imagining and put the question away once again. Until you can understand that this part of your brain can easily hijack your emotions, it might be ruling your life more than you want. There are three ways it does this:
One – it is primal. It’s number one concern is your survival. This is one of the main reasons we get stuck in a situation we’re not crazy about. We don’t want to try risking and failing, trying and succeeding or even holding an opinion for fear that the people we love will reject us if we change. We feel that staying as we are is a safer bet even if we wish for something else.
Two – it’s sneaky, like a reptile. Most of us are only aware of our conscious thoughts and work on these. I used to smoke. I tried to stop. I went cold turkey, tried hypnosis, bought a book, downloaded an app. You name it, I tried it. When I investigated it further, went beyond the fear and looked at the comfort I got from this pattern of behviour I stopped smoking for good.
Three – this part of your brain, does not want to be overthrown. It is the oldest part of your brain, there to protect you since the time of being hunter – gatherers. When you learn to quieten it, it is terrified that you’re going to kill your old identity – the part of you it has worked so hard at protecting.
Becoming aware of this part of your brain can be your gateway to change. And while change is good, it also hurls you into the unknown and puts you at risk for all sorts of loss, and, of course, all sorts of unimagined brilliance, which is why it brings your biggest fears to the surface.
“As they become known to and accepted by us, our feelings… become sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas. They become a safe-house for that difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action.” Audre Lorde
HOW – such a seemingly simple question, is there to protect you from your fears but it might end protecting you from experiencing a fully evolved life.
When I work with coaching clients, a common trait is fear. Fear is in all of us. Clients come to a coach to change or do something specific in their life, be it change career or to discuss finances with their partner. For a lot of people, the fear of abandonment looms heavily over moving forward, will this person or will my friends still love me if I do this thing I love? When the client can see this and name this fear, it suddenly subdues. The power of the fear has lessened, and they become more embodied in the present moment and can plan the next steps with a sense of ease. Unravelling our feelings we can understand why we are motivated to do this. We embody ourselves in the here and now and come out of our heads.
Trying to figure out how to get out of a conversation or a way of thinking can make us stuck. It can keep us in a loop of thought, leading to rumination or worry. When we try to think our way out of any situation, there is a tendency to get pulled into naming things we think we need to move forward. Our mindset moves to a place where we limit ourselves to logically find a solution and not bask in the opportunities of our dreams and passions.
2020 has been a huge pattern interrupt for us. And with the emotions that come and go, you might notice a yearning for something different for you. Without naming it, you might feel you want to learn a little bit more about yourself. Yet you are asking yourself HOW can I do this? And this loop continues where you can’t arrive at an answer. Maybe start asking yourself Why and giving yourself the space and time to listen to the answer.
Approach yourself with a sense of curiosity, ask What do I need right now? Why do I need this? And just listen. You don’t need to know how you are going to do it. This is not an exercise to strive to be something better or different. It’s an invitation to give yourself the space and time to learn about you.
I stopped writing in my early twenties. It took a shock to the system and the space that left, to allow myself to explore it again. I’ve been writing, in some capacity, almost daily, for over seven years. With this rediscovery, my inner life, has changed beyond measure. There is a saying that life is short, but it’s the longest thing you’ll ever have.
Right now, the world is looking bleak and there is much to worry about, if you can drop in and befriend yourself, it will be time well spent. Other than that, remember to wrap up warm, look after yourself and please remember, this moment shall pass.
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