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The Alchemy of Language - Turning 'Why' in to 'What'.

As you know when it comes to self awareness introspection is crucial. However, how we do introspection tends to be very unhelpful and often only serves to reinforce those existing negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that

we may already have about ourselves and add a few more.

Our minds are brilliant at doing what we tell them to do and works best when remembering stuff, problem solving and providing solutions. But here’s the thing! It’s only as good as the things we ask it do. And we tend to start a lot of our introspective questions with 'Why'. Whilst it’s a great start on a path to finding our philosophy and raison d'etre it’s a truly awful word to use when resolving personal and personality issues. 

Examples of ‘Why’ questions spinning around our heads: Why am I failing all the time? Why can’t I get what I want? Why am I so tired all the time? Why doesn't anyone like me? Why can’t I be worthy of love? Why is everything such a struggle? Why cant it just be easy for a change?

So, they are a few examples of ‘Why’ questions and I’m sure you could think of a few more. Now the thing that makes these ‘Why’ questions so bad for us is a wolf in sheeps clothing called cognitive bias. It’s that part of our thinking process that is entirely subjective and presupposes truth in the question. For instance in the question ‘Why am I failing all the time?’ It is presupposed that you ARE failing or a failure. Therefore the mind will acknowledge this as fact and find evidence to support this presupposed fact. However, the answer isn't necessarily truth. It’s just an answer it given based on your what you asked. The chances are you won't like the answers either but they will probably somehow chime with you because you've heard it so many times before that you expected it and have maybe even come to believe it.

It can get to a point where we don't even have to consciously ask these questions because they are on a constant loop playing in the back ground of our mind. Unhelpful questions providing statements that masquerade as truth and reinforce negative stuff about ourselves!…..hmmm that’s not good.

Soooooo…the exercise I’d like you to do is to swap out the word ‘Why’ and replace it with the word ‘What’. 'What' also presupposes something about you but it’s more all about retrieving solutions instead of finding evidence to support negative assumptions.

Examples of changing ‘why’s’ into ‘What’s’ : ‘Why am I failing all the time?’ Can become ‘What is it I am succeeding at and how can I enhance that?’ ‘Why cant I get what I want?’ becomes ‘What is it I want more of and how do I go about bringing more of it in to my life? And what do I want less of and how can I go about reducing it in my life?’ ‘Why am I so tired all the time?’ could become ‘What energises me and how can I get more of it?’ Etc....

Now it’s your turn. Come up with your own list of 'Why' questions and next to them rephrase them in to 'What' questions. 

Once you've done that take a moment to marvel at the simple difference a word can make and how small changes can bring about big improvements. After the marvelling start writing down the answers to your 'What' Questions.

Finally, write down an Action Plan based on the answers to your ‘What’ questions.

3 examples of what to do:

The ‘why’ question - Why do I always mess up? 

The ‘what’ question –What am I good at and when have I been good at it?

The answer/s to the ‘what’ question – I’m good at helping others and enjoyed it when I volunteered to work in the charity shop.

Action plan – Work 1 hour a week as a volunteer. Call the local organisation for people with learning difficulties and ask if I can help out.


The ‘why’ question - Why don’t I ever finish what I’ve started? 

The ‘what’ question –What can I do to refine my goals so they are realistic and achievable?

The answer/s to the ‘what’ question – Learn about goal setting.

Action plan – Call Graham and arrange a time when we can go over goal setting.


The ‘why’ question – Why am I always on edge?

The ‘what’ question –What ways do I like to relax and what others ways would I like to try?

The answer/s to the ‘what’ question – I like putting my headphones on and listen to music. I’d also like to try meditation and jogging.

Action plan – Put together a playlist of songs that really chill me and listen to them at least 20 minutes a day.Ask Graham to go jogging with me this Saturday. Join that yoga class in town. Youtube meditation.

I hope that all makes sense and helps you to make a start on changing the way you introspect. Once you’ve done the exercise above then and only then can you go outside and throw your arms up to the cosmos and scream, shout or whisper 'HELLO universe your lost child has returned!'

To finish with here’s something lovely that’s attributed to that Rumi guy. It’s kind of helpful in an unspecific way and sort of relevant to what I’ve written about here. But mostly I just wanted to quote something nice.

‘Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.’

You’re the best


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