Feb
21
 

Why ask why?

Why ask why?
“If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.”
~ Zen proverb

When I was in high school I stopped going to calculus class. When I asked my professor why the formulas worked, he replied that they simply did, and I should merely memorize them and use them. That didn’t work for me. I needed to know why and so instead I continually cut his class.

I am often driven to understand things on a deeper level. “Why?” I ask. “Why is that true? Why did that happen? Why did I (or you) do that? Where is that from?” There is somewhere in me an insatiable desire to fully “get it.” I think I’m convinced that once I understand, I’ll be better equipped to handle things and to change them (or me) to the outcome I want.

When we work with leaders we stress the need for self-reflection, for deeper understanding of others, and for asking “Why?” to grasp the intricacies and hidden histories of organizations and behaviors. However, this quest for understanding can sometimes stand in the way of actually handling situations, dealing with people, and moving ahead.

While it can be wonderful to understand why, the reality is that things are as they are, whether or not you understand them. Sometimes I may spend too much time trying to understand, when I could simply be living my life, dealing with what’s in front of me, making the most of what I’ve got, and moving forward. “Analysis, paralysis” is what they call getting so stuck in the “why” that you never move ahead.

While I still disagree with my high school teacher’s refusal (or inability) to explain calculus to me on a deeper level, I’ve found that there are times when it simply works better to realize that “this is what is,” and to move on.

Where might you be looking for answers where you’d be better off just accepting the situation as it is and moving forward? What do you need to do now? Find the place in your life where you need to simply accept that things are as they are. Stop asking why.

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