“The most important conversations you’ll ever have are the ones you’ll have with yourself.” ~David Goggins
Today I’m going to ask a question that will unlock a better life for you.
You’re probably expecting something profound.
You’re probably expecting something that will shake you to your core.
You’re probably expecting something that you’ve never heard before.
Don’t get me wrong, it can and will dramatically change your life, but you’ve definitely heard it before. Especially if you’ve been around a three-year-old.
And did I mention it’s only one word?
It’s the simple question of “Why?”
It’s scary to ask why because often you don’t know the answer. And no one likes being in that position because who wants to look like a goofball?
But it really doesn’t have to be a question we avoid. Do you see three-year-olds hung up on feeling like they don’t understand the world, so why bother? Of course not. They simply ask “Why?” and keep asking “Why?” until they’re satisfied with the answer.
Kids ask the question because they’re curious and want to understand how the world works around them.
Adults avoid the question because we don’t want to challenge what we know. What if we were wrong? What if our assumptions aren’t based on reality? We sure as hell don’t want to face the truth that will be revealed by looking into our motivations.
When I ask myself “Why?”, it always takes me back to insecurities I’m wrestling with. Why am I so offended by my wife’s opinion when we get into a fight? Why am I so passionate that I’m “right”? What is it that I’m terrified of? It’s almost always something within me that I’m trying to run away from.
Am I afraid that I’ll look weak?
Am I acting out on shit I haven’t dealt with from childhood?
My anger serves me at that moment because it keeps me safe. It’s a hell of a lot easier to act like a toddler than it is to ask, “Why am I so upset? Why am I reacting to this situation with such intensity?”
It’s terrifying to confront our actions and question if they support our declared values and beliefs. Because we almost certainly know that we’re going to uncover that some of our actions aren’t in alignment.
When I was younger, I believed being healthy was not just essential but foundational to my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. I knew these things to be true. I understood that I had to move my body, eat real food, and align my life with my values to show up fully in my life.
Yet if you looked at my actions throughout my twenties and early thirties, you would have seen a guy destroying bags of Doritos, partying weekly, and sleeping like garbage because he was forty pounds overweight.
My physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well was dry.
It was too sobering for me to accept this reality, so it was easier to remain unaware of the truth for years.
And because of that, my health was toxic. I popped a cocktail of five different pharmaceuticals before I could even muster up the energy to guzzle some coffee before work. I was fat, lazy, and full of excuses for why I spent the better part of my life depressed and hopeless about my future.
I know that sounds harsh. But I share that through a lens of empathy. I feel for that guy. I cry, thinking about what that guy had to go through to fully embrace that he was and is worthy of love.
But I also know the only reason he changed is that his toes were held to the fire.
I chose to be vulnerable.
I chose to seek help.
I chose to take action.
To me, asking “Why?” was the only way to ensure that my actions aligned with my values and beliefs.
I had all the right answers about why health was important to me. But I had zero ownership of why my actions said the opposite.
The first moment I accepted that truth felt like a Mike Tyson punch to the face. It brought me to my knees. It knocked a skull-rattling blow to my ego.
I was not the person I was telling myself I was.
Here’s why ownership is both terrifying and liberating: By asking “why,” I realized that I could have a better life, but achieving it depended on changes that only I could make. And that’s why I avoided taking responsibility—because it gave me an easy out.
I didn’t have to admit that my actions were out of alignment with my beliefs because I was choosing to see my circumstances as being beyond my control. It was the first time in my life that I understood I was complicit in creating the conditions I said I didn’t want.
What area of your life feels out of alignment with the person you want to be?
But here’s the critical part when you ask that question: Be gentle with yourself as you unpack what comes up.
No shame. No blame. It is what it is, my friend.
But now you have a choice to decide how you want to proceed.
Do you take ownership and put in the effort to improve? That’s on you.
When you take the time to look within and take ownership of your actions, you can face the truth of your motivations and progress toward your goals.
Asking “Why?” is like holding a skeleton key for all your problems. No matter what you’re facing, it unlocks what will help you break through the barriers that keep you stuck.
How do you turn this insight into action?
1. Acknowledge the fear driving your behavior, perhaps stemming from insecurity, trauma, or your childhood conditioning. Remind yourself that it is okay to ask why and that you don’t have to have all the answers immediately or even take action right away if you don’t feel ready to make a change.
2. Take it one step at a time, and don’t overwhelm yourself. Start with the most pressing issues in your life and build your way up.
3. Talk to someone you trust and ask for help. Share your fears and doubts; you might be surprised by how many people have faced similar issues. Having the support of someone who understands can help you to be more confident in facing the hard stuff you’re tempted to avoid.
Once you understand yourself on a deeper level, all that’s left is to take action. Use the insights gained from asking “why” to make intentional changes in your life. Identify specific actions that align with your values and beliefs and commit to making them a regular part of your routine. Or make a list of current negative behaviors, along with anything that triggers them, and identify healthier choices for each.
Remember to be patient and kind with yourself as you navigate these changes, and celebrate small successes along the way. You can become the person you want to be with persistence and dedication.
About Chris Wilson
Chris Wilson is a bipolar creative with a knack for personal development. He geeks out on productivity, minimalism, and enjoying life. He runs Simplify Your Why, where he shares lessons learned on overcoming his battles with depression, type II bipolar, and entrepreneurship. He created a free course for anyone who wants to lead a happier, more productive life of simplicity (with less stress). Click here to access it.