Sheila M. Kelly

Don’t Ask Why. Unless…

When he was 17 and dealing with the nausea, pain, and stress of chemotherapy, my son asked me the inevitable question, “Why me?”

As I explained to him from my own broken heart that he of all people had done nothing to “deserve” all that he was experiencing, I also asked, “Why not you?”

The bottom line is this:

We are part of a system deeply entrenched in a belief in illness; thus, we are all susceptible to illness and disease.

As a former front-line manager in a tough union environment, as a wife and mother, and as a leadership coach, I have found that asking “why” is not generally helpful.

In fact, it can be detrimental.

Here’s why:

  1. “Why” keeps us looking in the rear-view mirror. When we spend months and years asking ourselves “why,” we stay stuck in the past. How can we possibly move forward when our energy and attention are focused in the past?
  2. “Why” is a thief for those who want to practice living in the now and mindfulness.
  3. It can become a “whyne,” a way that we remain in victim consciousness, constantly dwelling on and/or talking about a painful event.

Last but not least, “why” does not lend itself to the underpinnings of my coaching work. “Why” tends to be a therapy question, one which seeks for understanding and insight. Both can be necessary and helpful. Very often, though, insight is not sufficient; that is, it doesn’t always result in the change desired. Coaches like me recognize that the past does impact how one shows up in the present but from the perspective of: “How can you let go of the past and move forward?”  

Three Antidotes to “Why”

1.      Reframe the question from why to:

(a)   How do we move forward from here?

(b)   What can we do different next time?

(c)    Is there anyone else who can help us out?

(d)   What did we learn from this?

(e)   Is there anything else we missed?

(f)     How can I help?

2.      Gratitude. List 3 things you’re grateful for every day. Being grateful not only impacts one’s attitude in a very positive way, it lowers the stress hormone, cortisol, leading to more productivity and better decision making. The Gratitude Guy, Steve Foran, makes it easy for you. Simply follow this link…

3.      Forgiveness. Like gratitude, forgiveness changes our biology. As well, Forbes magazine reports that Fishbowl, the Quickbooks company, has adopted forgiveness as an organizational practise, resulting in huge shifts in its corporate culture, not to mention its bottom line.

Don’t wait for your organization to adopt gratitude and forgiveness as core values. Do it yourself. For yourself.




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