Why? Why am I the way I am? Why do I keep doing the thing I do? Why do I feel the way I do?
Ever noticed that if you ask yourself too many why questions you become exhausted? Einstein said, the important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. I believe in digging for an explanation, because understanding our why often helps to clarify beliefs and motives, but the search sometimes leaves me frustrated.
Six years ago, I ran my first sub-two-hour half marathon. A great achievement, but over the next few days I developed an ache across the top of my foot. I saw my GP, for what I described as a rolled ankle. She insisted I get an x-ray, sent me for an MRI and referred me to the Sports Physician. I didn’t appreciate the serious nature of my pain, runners rarely do.
Things were going well –a dream achieved and now this. Why?
A few weeks later I’m with the Sports Physician and still convinced that I’m wasting his time with nothing more than rolled ankle. He asked a few questions about how much running I did, looked at the x-ray & MRI and then asked me to hop on my dodgy foot. Nearly falling I said, “I need to practice my hopping – aye.”
He sat me down, held my good foot and squeezed, “This is normal.” Then, he squeezed my sore foot, it hurt. “This is not normal.” I pulled a face. “Listen staunch woman, your foot has a fracture in the navicular bone no running for eight weeks.”
What! I’m a runner! I climb the walls if I miss two days training. I’d already set my sights on my next goal and the thought of a delay in achieving it, crushed me. But I liked this doctor, he called me staunch and I felt he somehow understood. He explained that my injury had been caused by the repetitive strain of overtraining and I reluctantly agreed to rest.
I’d ignored the warning signs of injury before and saddened I chastised myself –Why did I always do this, push myself so hard?
The problem with asking myself this question is that my answer came back to, I don’t know why I do, I just do.
Stuck, miserable and getting no-where I decided to draw a line under the whole sorry episode and take stock.
How does a person stuck in the rut of asking why learn to move on? Here’s what I’ve learnt:
Ask the right questions if you’re to find the right answers – Vanessa Redgrave
Move away from why and instead ask how and what questions.
- Draw a line under asking why.
Choose to hold back all the unanswered whys and stop trying to figure them out. This will create a start point for fresh perspective and solutions.
- Ask a what question. What needs to change?
Perhaps it’s an unhealthy pattern of behaviour e.g. the negative words you say to yourself. Or an involvement in an unhelpful relationship.
For me, my approach to training & rest needed to change. And because I was unable to run, I also needed to find alternative exercise options.
- Ask a how question. How can I change it?
Often it feels like life happens to us. A decision to handle things differently puts life back under our control.
Unable to run, I used the opportunity to learn to swim. Swimming lessons were on my bucket list for years.
Leave your subconscious to work out your why question.
When I feel back in control the answer to my why question often emerges. For example, I realised that I value determination and have worked hard to grow this characteristic. However, I tend to overlook my need for self-compassion. Put simply, in trying to live up to my ideals I’m a bit of a bully to myself.
Perhaps you’re like me? Or maybe you look in the mirror and say negative things about yourself?
How can you be more self-compassionate? What can you say differently to yourself?
People pay good money to work with coaches. Why? Because great coaches believe in people and motivate them to win. They encourage us to play to our strengths and give strategy on how to develop our weaknesses. For a coach, every day is an opportunity for improvement and they tell us, nice work, you got this, you smashed it. They push us beyond our limits, yet they care about them.
Be that kind of coach to yourself.
You got this! Draw the line. Gain perspective. Be a great coach to yourself. Reach new horizons. Go live your best life!