Why Ask Why?

Chapter 42 of the book Self-Help Stuff That Works

by Adam Khan

A QUESTION THAT NATURALLY comes to mind when something goes wrong is "Why?" But it's a question fraught with danger. Research has repeatedly shown that the human brain is designed to answer a question with whatever knowledge it has (no matter how little) and come up with a plausible answer (however wrong). Self-blame or victimhood is a frequent side effect.

For example, you can ask why you're overweight and, without any problem at all, your mind will come up with answers. But all it can give you are theories. What's the "real" answer? Is it because you weren't loved as a child? Is it a genetic weakness in your family? Is it an evolutionary holdover precaution against famine? Is your mouth simply bored?

The problem with a why question is that you get too many answers you can do nothing about. You can't change your childhood or a genetic weakness.

There is only one good thing about asking why: It can be entertaining. It's intriguing. It's like a mystery and mysteries capture our attention like nothing else. But if what you want is to handle the situation well or solve the problem and get on with the business of living, ask how not why. It's more efficient.

Since your mind will try to answer any question you put to it, the kind of question you ask makes a big difference. So ask what you really want to know: "How could I get slimmer?" Or "How can I avoid this problem in the future?" Or "How can I solve this problem now?" Or "How can I make things a little better?" Let your mind go wild on one of those questions. The answers will be more productive.

With how, you go straight for a useful answer. You avoid getting sidetracked into what can become an endless search for "understanding." With how your answers lead to actions. And it is actions that solve problems and produce real change.

Instead of asking why you have a problem, ask how you can get what you want.

A simple change in perspective can make you feel better and can also make you more effective at dealing with the situation. Here's one way to change your perspective.

What if maximizing your full potential was bad for you?
Be All You Can Be


This is a simple technique for reducing a little of the stress you feel day to day. Its biggest advantage is you can use it while you work.
Rx to Relax

Why are some people interested in life and others bored?
Find out here.
Interest is Life

Self-esteem should be intimately tied to integrity.
If it isn't, the self-esteem is a farce.
How to Like Yourself More

Why do people in general (and you in particular) not feel happier than our grandparents felt when they had far fewer possessions and conveniences than we now have?
We've Been Duped

next: Science of Happiness

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, October 12). Why Ask Why?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 23 from

Last Updated: March 31, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info