Bob is driving along and wants to make a turn. He doesn’t see a car coming and crashes. His initial reaction to ask himself questions like this:
- Why did this happen to me?
- Why wasn’t I paying attention
- Why can’t I do this right?
Janet got a bad review at her job because she doesn’t quite see eye-to-eye with her boss. Her reaction was to ask these questions..
- Why didn’t I get my raise?
- Why can’t my boss see how hard I work?
- Why am I getting left behind?
If you notice something about these questions, they are all why questions, and none of them have a good answer.
Even more importantly, the answers you tend to find are not the truth.
When you ask a why question, they lead you away from the truth. Your brain will find you answers because that’s what it does. However, those answers are based on limited knowledge, so the answers are usually wrong.
The problem with why questions
You think you are being self-aware by asking why questions.
You want to know why things happen so you don’t do them again, right? It seems to make sense.
The problem is that this doesn’t give the results that you really want. It’s impossible to know all the reasons why you do something. There are too many subconscious factors involved that you can never know.
In fact, these questions make you feel stressed, unhappy, and a victim. In essence, your are dis-empowering yourself.
Self-awareness should lead to the opposite: more happiness, greater self-understanding, and more control over what we experience.
How self-aware are you?
Most people believe they are self-aware, but in fact most of us aren’t.
One of the best ways to tell how self-aware you are is to investigate how often you ask those types of why-did-this-happen-to-me or why-do-I-fail questions.
If it’s often, it’s time to do something different.
The trouble with introspection
I always thought introspection was a good thing. The ability to go inside and find some sort of truth. It seemed like a good idea. I got hooked on it. However, introspection based on the unhelpful questions leads to unhelpful answers.
The truth is that I was really asking myself terrible questions that didn’t create more self-awareness. It’s no surprise that I felt unhappy, on the wrong track, and like a failure.
I was relying on my thoughts to “fix” me.
The problem with relying on thoughts
I liked turning inward. As an introvert, it felt easy. However, those thoughts that come up are designed to keep you safe and alive. Not to make you happy. As part of the job, your brain looks for what seems dangerous and gives it more attention.
Those types of thoughts are not coming from your higher brain and this part of your brain never gives the best of you. Its job is to protect you. Unfortunately, when you are in protection mode, you can’t grow.
It’s time to try something different that gives real growth.
What self-aware people do
When a challenging situation arises, self-aware people choose a different type of question. Questions that have constructive answers. They usually start with “what” not “why”.
In the car wreck, what if Bob tried these questions:
- What can I learn so this doesn’t happen again?
- What can I do next time to make sure I see all cars?
- What do I have to be grateful for?
How about the bad review at work. What could Janet ask instead?
- What can I do to improve this relationship?
- What can I learn from my boss?
- What is triggering my emotional reaction?
All these questions are designed to do one thing. Break you out of your auto-pilot slumber and make you more conscious of what you are doing. Now you can create new thoughts by design, rather than rely on old patterns of the past.
Now your higher brain is using creativity to make the situation better. If one option doesn’t work, you have another to try. This creates change, momentum, and can alter your whole life.
In essence, self-awareness gives you the power to influence your experience and how you feel.
Cultivating greater self-awareness
You can break yourself out of your patterns at any time with better questions. You can reclaim some of your thoughts from your subconscious.
You can also do it by design. You can purposefully ask yourself questions every day.
Here is any example of a few questions:
- What fun can I create today?
- What am I excited about?
- What have I learned?
- What can I do to enjoy the day more?
They are formulated to focus on the positive aspects of the day, and they really work.
Self-awareness is the way to give yourself a greater chance of happiness. It allows you to discover what is important, solve difficult situations, and keep you moving forward.
Self-awareness takes a daily commitment to focusing on the right questions.
Self-awareness is created by asking what-questions, not gloomy introspection.
When you ask the right questions, you engage your creativity and find new options and possibilities to really improve your life. It’s the way to feel more positive emotions like joy, love, happiness and passion.
Cultivate your self-awareness by asking the right kind of questions that increase your awareness and get you out of old patterns.