Focus On The What, Not The Why

I once took a philosophy exam that contained only one question:  “Why?”

After thinking back to what we covered during the semester, I wrote:  “Why not?”

I got an “A” for the course.

The more we open ourselves to living consciously and creating our lives on our terms, we let go of any need to know the why of it all.

Growing spiritually requires a lot of internal work, but it is not an investigation into why things are the way they are — why so-and-so didn’t love me, why you keep repeating the same mistakes, why this or that happened or didn’t happen.

Focusing on the why is divisive; in fact, it’s part of the blame and shame game.  The why question really asks who is to blame.

When others ask us why, more often than not it feels like a threat.  Our defenses go up. We grow resistant to those asking us why we are the way we are or why we don’t do what they want us to do.  The moment gets robbed of its joy, and we interrupt our authentic living.

Note in your present conversations how often you ask why.  Note how it affects others when asked, and note how you are affected when you are asked.  Then work to release these whys.


By focusing on the what of it all.  Instead of asking, “Why did this happen?,” ask “What just happened?” or “What is going on here?”  Instead of asking, “Why did this happen to me?,” ask, “What brought me to this place in my life?”, or “What’s the relationship between the past and what’s happening now?” Rather than ask why you don’t have a particular something in your life, acknowledge what you don’t have, and then do the necessary work to create it.

In the course of a relationship, the whys and hows will pop up when we step away from our awareness.  When this happens, simply take note but move on so that you or the other is not left feeling victimized.

The why is really part of someone else’s story.  Why someone behaves in a way that is uncharacteristic or in a way that you do not understand is his or her story, not yours, and it is not yours to fix.  Be aware of your own story, and know that only you can take the necessary steps to change things for yourself.

When we know the what of a situation, we can use this information to heal and move forward in creating and customizing our life.



11 thoughts on “Focus On The What, Not The Why

    1. Penny McDaniel Post author

      Thank you, Ruchira.

      “Why” is a tricky little word with big consequences. It’s one of the ego’s favorite words.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing. Much appreciated.

  1. Gena Livings

    Dear Penny,
    This is a an absolutely beautiful message, as always, but I have a little different perspective so you absolutely do not have to accept or publish my thoughts as I am talking directly to you.

    When I look back at my own life experiences, I realize now that it started with asking myself “why” I believed what I did.

    The what to me wasn’t relevant. The why was. I now realize that I believed what I did because I had been taught and conditioned to believe what I did.

    Most of all though, I realize that why I believed what I did, contradicted the principle of faith.

    For example, the claim that God or trolls exist are no different.

    We scoff and judge the person who believes in trolls, but accept the person who believes in God. It’s all a matter of faith and belief. This is the heart of the theistic contradiction that only resides in the heart of faith and belief.

    With love,,
    Gena <3
    Gena Livings recently posted…Three Easy Ways To Become More Environmentally ConsciousMy Profile

    1. Penny McDaniel Post author

      Hi Gena!

      Why can be such a tricky word to work with. I asked why a lot in my journey because I had such a yearning to understand things, and like you, I asked myself why I believed what I did. Why led me on investigations where sometimes I found answers and sometimes I didn’t. But in relationships, I found asking why not helpful at all, and I found being asked why putting me on edge. It’s interesting to hear about different experiences with why.

      Thank you for sharing your story here, Gena. I always appreciate what you have to say. Rock on, girl!

  2. Andrea

    I totally agree, Penny, asking ‘why’ does not serve us at all. I used to ask why? all the time until I realised when I did that, the universe would just deliver more examples of why something was like it was, or why something kept happening ‘to’ me. When I turned it on its head and started asking what was my learning, or what was I being shown, things along that line, then my life changed for the better. I saw was I needed to see and learned alot about myself in the process. For me, asking why gets me nowhere, it keeps me in the same place. Asking what frees me. Great post! Blessings, Andrea

    1. Penny McDaniel Post author

      Hi Andrea!

      I never found asking “why” to be helpful at times. In some areas, asking “why” helped in my search for certain answers, but when it came to relationships, forget it…it only caused strife and it took away the joy of the moment because I was wasting energy on trying to find an answer that wasn’t available rather than investing in the moment and enjoying what was in front of me. We live and learn. Everyone’s experience is different. Like you, I asked what it was I needed to learn to move forward and that got me unstuck. There are times when I still ask why…it comes up naturally, but I don’t dwell on it.

      Thank you for sharing here, my friend.

  3. Kathy Hadley

    Dear Penny,

    I always tell my clients that asking “why” in the context you are speaking of here is useless. It is also very upsetting. The brain is set to resolved problems but “why” in this context is only confusing and will keep you going in circles. Very unproductive and so don’t go there.

    I also tell my clients not to worry about the “how”.

    The “how” will come about as an answer to the “what” you are asking for and it is not YOUR WORK. It is the work of the Universal once you truly align to what you really want in your entire Beingness.

    Now, there is a “why” exercise that is very effective though in this ONE context. Going over the why you want something. But ONLY do it as long as it feel good to you.

    For example:

    Say someone wants more money.
    They can ask themselves, why do I want more money?
    I want to have certain things.
    Why do I want these certain things?
    Because I think they will make me happy.

    Ok, so the final reason is to be happy.
    Thus, be happy and you will attract these things.

    Or it could let to be safe and secure or confident.

    Whatever the why in this context leads you to, feel that now and you will then have aligned to attracting it.

    Great post.



    Kathy Hadley recently posted…Free Your Mind – UnplugMy Profile

    1. Penny McDaniel Post author

      Hi Kathy.

      Great point. The “how” is not for us to worry about. The Universe works in mysterious ways…we just have to trust it and align with its energies.

      I like the exercise that you mentioned. When we ask why in the context of wanting something, we find that the final reason is that we want to be happy. Then after we answer that, we need to let go and let it come to us.


      Thank you for your added insight. Much appreciated.

  4. Pingback: Asking Why Is Useless Except In This One Context |

  5. Peggy

    Hi Penny,

    Like soda and extra sugar, I gave up why like the bad habit it is. Asking why is like carrying an extra 10 pounds of emotional baggage around every day, day in and day out. It’s exhausting.

    These days, I stay focused on the what…the how and the why take care of themselves.

    Peggy recently posted…How to End Your Affair With PerfectionismMy Profile

    1. Penny McDaniel Post author

      Hi Peggy,

      I like your analogy of carrying why around like an extra 10 pounds of emotional baggage. That is apropos and accurate in describing this tricky little word.

      Thanks for sharing here today! Much appreciated.


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