The Why Trap

Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

Babysitters know full well that children ask why about everything.

You must wait for it to cool before you can eat it.


Because you will burn your mouth.


Because it’s too hot and needs to cool off.

But why?

Because I just took it off the stove.

And round and round they go.

Asking why is natural because the conscious mind is trying to reason out an understanding. Yet understanding why does not solve the problem the confused mind is trying to solve.

Above, the child just wants to eat and cannot so she sets about knowing the why thinking this will give her more information – a reason why not. But does it get her what she wants?


Even when you know why, it does not provide the solution to getting what you want: the food in your mouth, the motivation to begin, the ladder out of the rut, or the release of what keeps you stuck.

A better question is How? How do I get what I want right now?

If the child asked, how can I have that now? The answer might be: You can eat it cold. Then the child has a decision to make. Eat it cold or wait until the hot food cools.

If you ask a child why they want something, they usually do not have a reason. They just want it.

First, decide what you want. (The why can come later.)

Second, decide what first step you can take to get what you want.

Third, take consistent action! Do any steps necessary until you have what you want.

Well, if everything were that simple, we would have everything we wanted! I would have everything I wanted.

Humans overcomplicate everything. No less than twelve steps for everything, right? Centuries of conditioning have kept us from simplifying. Generation to generation has passed down the belief that hard work is the only way. But is that where to begin?

Asking why is a trap that keeps the mind occupied. But asking how gives it a path to produce an actual result.

The same principle applies to the most complex problems. A war veteran knows why he has PTSD. But does knowing that help him remedy the problem?

First, he must decide what he wants. (Obvious? No. At this point he knows what he doesn’t want.)

Second, he must decide on a first step toward getting what he wants. (Seeking professional help, learning coping         mechanisms, working with tools to manage  symptoms.)

Third, he must act consistently. Willingly try different techniques until he achieves what he wants.

The veteran begins with the same decisions as the child who simply wants to eat but has far deeper layers to swim through to arrive to his solution. For now, he must first decide what he wants to act on.

Choosing to let go of the why and focus on how will serve you far better in most situations.