You don’t realize it, but your common sense was often ahead of the times, before theories, debates, studies and research reached the same conclusions.
For instance, when I was growing up, if kids did something wrong, said something hurtful, or got into trouble at school, usually their parents asked these questions: “How did this happen?”~ “What did you do this time?”~ “Who were you with?” or “Who’s idea was this?” Eventually you would also learn the answers to those questions as well, but your most important question, the one you asked quietly, seriously, and while looking into my eyes was this: “Why?”
You wanted to know why I’d done something, why I’d thought it was appropriate or the only option, and if I’d considered the consequences or the pain it might cause someone else. “Why?” was the question you asked about things I’d done, as well as things I should have done but didn’t do. (In that case, it was “Why not?”—again, with emphasis on the thought process.)
Guess what, Mom? Your main-question approach has been identified as the essential question in focusing on obstacles or goals, and effectively solving problems or being successful in careers and life. Professor Julia Bayuk’s experiments at Delaware University demonstrated that focusing on the what and the how—without fully grasping the why—can actually work against achieving desired outcomes.
It’s mid-January and individual resolutions may be floundering or forgotten entirely. Maybe there was one word that was missing from the resolution. When we made the resolution or formed a plan for reaching our desires or goals, we probably knew WHAT we wanted to accomplish and even HOW we planned to do it, sometimes with many specific steps. But if we didn’t fully explore and understand the real and personal WHY it was important and essential in our lives, our true motivation was unclear and we were hobbled at the gate even before the race began. In the Year of the Horse–and any year, actually–that’s an almost guaranteed failure.
Here are some other insights on asking the Right Question:
“What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.” ~ Jonas Salk
“In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” ~Bertrand Russell
“There are no right answers to wrong questions.” ~ Ursula K. LeGuin
“If you really want to know something, also ask WHY?”~ Mary Shepherd, paraphrased