Why Knowing the WHY is Overrated

There's a theory that goes a little something like this: if you can figure out the reason why you act or feel a certain way, then you'll be able to change it. So if I know WHY I'm upset about something, then I can fix it, right? Well...not exactly.

This theory has been around for ages, and it's still being used today because it makes sense—the conscious mind is the rational part of us that seeks to understand and make sense of what's going on in our lives. When we're feeling a negative emotion like anger or frustration or sadness, for example, our first instinct is often to try to identify what triggered it so we can figure out how to stop feeling that way again in the future. But while knowing "WHY" something happens might be helpful in some cases (like when trying to avoid repeating mistakes), knowing "WHY" isn't always essential for change because our unconscious mind doesn't always operate based on logic and reason!

The conscious mind is the rational part of you

Basically, the conscious mind is your rational side that seeks to understand and make sense of what's going on in your life. It can think about things and make decisions—and it's also able to imagine what you want to experience.

Numerous people think that their actions are driven by the conscious mind because that's where the logic and reasoning happens. But if you look at research done by neuroscientists like Daniel Kahneman (the author of Thinking Fast And Slow), he points out that our unconscious mind makes up around 95% of our decision-making process (or more). This means that most of what we do every day happens without us even realizing it! If this were true for me as well, then my daily schedule would be much simpler than it actually is: go here, do this thing there... Instead, my days are filled with choices both big and small that all have an impact on whether I feel successful or not throughout them. 

It's natural to want to figure out why you feel a certain way.

You're reading this, aren't you? Well, that means you're a human being. And as such, we have an innate desire to understand why things happen around us. This is what gives rise to questions like:

  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • What's going on here?
  • Or even What is wrong with me?

I can't tell you the number of times I've asked myself these questions when faced with a negative emotion or situation. In fact, it was only recently that I realized asking these questions is pointless and often causes more harm than good—and if anything, knowing why leads us down a path toward self-blame and guilt (and sometimes even apathy).

So, how do we move past these unhelpful thoughts and emotions? It's all about creating new alternatives for our unconscious mind by asking different questions instead of focusing on figuring out why things happened in the first place. Rather than asking ourselves "WHY did I create this?" ask "HOW did I create this?" instead; then act based on what happens next!

Knowing "WHY" we do something doesn't always affect change

In a perfect world, we'd be able to change our behavior by understanding the whys. Unfortunately, knowing why we do something doesn't always produce the changes we wish to experience.

The brain is designed to be pattern-seeking and efficient. It prioritizes doing what is familiar over doing what is new, better or more effective. Thus, it's not surprising that changing your behavior requires doing something different from what you've always done—in other words: changing HOW you do it!

Our unconscious mind chooses what is familiar, not what works best for us.

You see, the unconscious mind is trying to do two things:

  • It's trying to protect you and keep you safe.
  • It's trying to keep your life moving forward by always doing what it knows how to do well so that you don't have to think about it any more when things get stressful or confusing.

So let's say that something happens in your life where someone doesn't treat you very well—or maybe they even hurt your feelings (this often happens). What happens? Your unconscious mind remembers this experience and says "I don't want this happening again!" Then next time someone says something mean or insensitive around you—even if they're just kidding around—your unconscious mind will go into defence mode and react automatically without even checking in with your conscious mind first! Does this sound familiar?

person in a yellow jacket looking over a pinhead turn on a mountain

To unlock your new potential, you need to create new alternatives for your unconscious mind.

The important step to unlocking new potential is to create new alternatives for your unconscious mind.

The reason why you might be stuck in a rut is because your unconscious mind doesn’t know any better, it only knows how you do things. It is working with something that is familiar, not what works best for us. That’s why we have to get creative and imagine new ways of doing things if we want to achieve success in any area of our lives.

Understanding why we do things might be helpful, but creating new alternatives is how we change our behavior.

You may have heard of the unconscious mind, but you’re probably not sure what it does. It’s the part of your brain that controls all of your actions and behaviors without any conscious thought on your part. In fact, if you were to ask someone why they did something, their answer would come from their conscious mind. This means that understanding why we do things is often useful in changing our behavior—but only if the behavior comes from our conscious minds!

The reason this is important is that when we try to change our behavior through “why-based” awareness building (this includes trying to understand why we do things), we actually end up reinforcing existing patterns in our unconscious mind by bringing them into consciousness again and again. Instead, if we create new alternatives for ourselves instead of attempting to gain more insight into ourselves, then those new alternatives will gradually take over as old habits are broken down and forgotten about altogether.

It is our experience with clients that knowing the real WHY behind a behavior usually comes only after the behavior changes, only after we have introduced new alternatives to the unconscious mind.

Final words

So, why is knowing the WHY overrated? Even if you think you know how to discover the underlying cause of a problem, I would argue that this is not always necessary. First, it might take too long to figure out what the root cause is and second, if multiple factors are causing an issue you may never be able to pinpoint them all.

It’s also important to note that just because you don’t have all the answers doesn’t mean you can’t solve a problem or make progress towards your goal; sometimes knowing less can actually help us make better decisions! So next time when faced with any decision, remember: there is no right answer, only better ones!

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