Asking “WHAT” instead of “WHY” to move forward in your life!
There is a simple and powerful tool I frequently use to reframe my mindset. Whilst it’s not a Law of Attraction technique I’ve learnt, it’s definitely can be used to boost your motivation, for activating change in your life.
Let me begin with this statement – we are all challenged with ‘stuff’.
When I’m challenged with something that triggers me, I don’t like to wallow in feeling uncomfortable or negative. I like to be proactive so I can get on with my life.
I’ve had periods of my life that were darker than others. These days I choose to embrace, the gift that landed into my world, and explore what the lesson is.
I’m talking about when I am triggered, and I need to find a solution.
I try wherever possible to keep my processes simple for shifting gears when my mindset is challenged.
Let’s discuss the hows and whys that drive me to asking a “WHAT” question.
I know that sounds weird so allow me to explain that a little further with a bit of a story.
Picture yourself in the middle of a shit storm of an experience. The chaos has kicked in, and you’re triggered.
I’ve not met a single person on the planet yet who enjoys the thought of “sucking it up” and getting on with things or pushing through.
The thoughts and feelings, associated with sucking it up, always seems to be the what we feel at the beginning of a stressful experience. This strategy doesn’t work for a number of reasons.
Global Pandemic Impact
Let me reference the stress of this global pandemic. On some level, at some point during the last 18 months, we’ve all undergone massive changes or been caught up in the societal stress that this virus has caused.
Perhaps you haven’t coped well with being isolated from your tribe of support?
Perhaps home schooling is your trigger?
Perhaps just the threat of another covid lockdown pushes all your buttons?
Maybe you simply don’t like change and the thought of being told you have to wear a mask when outside makes you angry?
I recognise that the thought of having to suck it up, and being told by our government that we have to isolate and wear masks is different, it’s physically uncomfortable, and for some incredibly stressful. The entire topic of whether or not you should get vaccinated is so personal, and yet it’s generating an enormous amount of dialogue in our community right now.
And then there’s all the stuff being reported in the media…
Just me saying those few sentences is enough to trigger me.
Well you know what? The entire topic is frankly a little overwhelming and its fear inducing.
I think what contributes to the societal stress, is that our news reporters are using war language, with references such as we are under attack from this virus.
Our politicians are constantly disagreeing with policy and decisions which makes it challenging to easily digest and trust any information being shared within the community.
I get it.
Are you questioning everything right now?
We’re finding ourselves asking a hell of a lot of questions, some of which are reasonable, and some are fear-based. I know from my own experience, it’s very easy to quickly fall down a rabbit hole, and wallow in the pity party.
The global pandemic is amplifying community fears right now. There is so much societal stress arising within our community conversations, of who and what to believe.
There is much anger and frustration and a whole lot of fear based reactive behaviour. These fears aren’t just based in the present moment, but being projected into the future.
For example the fear of the future and fear of uncertainty of how long our community will be threatened with repeated lockdowns. The fear of personal safety of going out into the community. The list of fears is currently endless.
I’m not going to debate the science nor am I going to wade into the arena of vaccinations. What I want to address in today’s epsiode is how to reset your mindset, and remain in your lane regardless of the stress trigger that pushes your buttons.
Let’s bring our focus back to you right now. Breath in deeply and slowly, and then sigh with an open mouth.
This is Your life. It’s your mental health and emotional wellbeing. These are your strategies. Just pause for a moment or two!
Brene Brown talks about fear being contagious, especially when it’s discussed a lot. And let’s face it, you can no longer listen to free to air tv or radio without a mention of the pandemic within any given 30 minute interval.
That’s pretty intense energy to expose oneself to, when you’re empathic and sensitive. It’s especially intense when it’s the only conversation going on.
We all remember where we were when the Victorian lockdown was instigated. I was at chemo. I was alone because the hospital were on full virus alert and patients were not allowed visitors. So my driver waited in the car or went for a walk for the six hour treatment session. Then we drove home for 2.5 hours. That made my oncology treatment extremely stressful at times.
The strategy I used then and continue to this day includes the following-
Tip #1 Limit Your Exposure
I gain a lot of internal peace when I limit my exposure to too much information. So I seek out what I find to be a reliable source of science and facts that I need to know, from a single trusted source.
I get in, get what I need to process and digest information, and get out again.
I rarely listen to news because it triggers me. So I seek out the highlights from a trusted source without commercials, so my exposure time is reduced. I get what I need for that day or week ahead and then I switch it off, feeling informed and knowing what I need to do to contribute to keeping myself and my community safe.
Tip #2 Have A Family Plan
I make sure my family members check in with each other. We keep the lines of communication open. Determining where we are all at on a daily basis is a healthy way to proactively manage anything that arises.
This measures how well we are coping, and goes a long way to ensuring everyone can recognise when individuals need more support. It also identifies when we need to action more self care strategies in order to swim in our lane.
Checking in with the family sometimes means reverting to a weekly meals plan, because when you’re really busy to have to think of what to cook tonight, that could be the thing that sends you into chaos.
Tip #3 Exercise
Move your body! Our bodies store a lot of emotion. When you move them, you are gifting yourself the chance to release out emotions that aren’t serving you, like those fears.
So get in touch with someone you trust and exercise together!
Tip #4 Hydrate!
You’d be surprised the impact that water has in lubricating the body and the brain. We want all our neural pathways to easily communicate with each other not have to send random signals and hope for the best. Thats is when our survival instinct kicks in and we can begin to feel defensive.
Tip #5 Ask a WHAT Question
Ok so now you’ve got a rough plan. Now it’s time to ask the “what” question.
Let’s explore this what question a little more.
After listening to Tasha Eurich’s Ted Talk “Increase your Self Awareness” I was left with two profound key points.
“Why” questions trap us into continuing to look in the rearview mirror of our life.
A why question often denotes an emotional component to answer or highlight a reason or cause. In the case of cancer, why would one person be diagnosed over another? In some cases, like smoking or drinking, the why is simple and easy to identify. There is an inference that the person’s actions were the cause.
The global pandemic however does not provide any reason or cause for the virus, but it does generate a whole lot of shame for anyone unfortunate enough to contract the virus.
A why question also denotes blame, shame, and guilt immediately to the inquisitor.
It infers the action of the question asker, to reflect on the reason of the cause of stress. In the case of my cancer experience, my oncologist states, it’s the luck of the draw. COVID is exactly the same.
In my experience and research, cancer and COVID is a little more than luck but still, no-fault should be drawn. Yet we self criticise, self punish and talk shit to ourselves when the going gets tough at the time! Other than making you feel worse and completely stuck, what is this serving you? You gain absolutely nothing from the stress you generate from asking ‘why’ questions.
I could talk about the involvement of epigenetics, diet and the management of chronic stress in one’s life — all of which contribute to cancer or suppressed immune systems.
There are likely to be the questions surrounding why me, but what if you were to consider what can I learn from this experience?
Does that one question stop you in your why tracks immediately?
Did you find yourself pausing and taking a slow deep breath and calming a little? And if you need to, pause this episode right now and do the simple breathing exercise of breathing in fully and slowly and then releasing a long slow elongated breath with an open mouth and sigh. Go on try a couple of breaths like that right now.
Feeling a little lighter?
Here’s the thing, whether you’re a newly diagnosed cancer patient or you have succumbed to the stress of the pandemic, none of those reasons you procured inside your head matter right now. Do they?
Looking for a cause is continuing to look in the rearview mirror of your life. The pandemic is here.
It’s not in your control to go back and make changes. It’s stressful trying to live in the past.
You can’t relive your life or get a do-over.
But YOU can make changes moving forward. It starts with focussing on what you can do in this moment right now.
You’re not doing yourself any favours by mentally beating yourself up with all the analysis of the why. Excessive or ongoing thinking literally will drain your physical energy to maintain the mental stamina to power the brain and continue assessing what did or did not go right or wrong.
The answer to overcoming the stress of a big life challenge like a cancer diagnosis or the global pandemic is to ask yourself this one question.
What is in my control right now?
Sit with that question and check in with your body. Is it still in a state of flight or fight? Or perhaps are you suddenly eager, to explore new horizons? Is there a shift? Try the breathing exercise again after asking yourself this question.
Mindful breathing and meditation is scientifically proven by the Heart Math Institute to have physiological benefits to both the body and our mental wellbeing.
Asking the what question shifts your vision, motivation and drive for life forward. It changes the mindset into a solution-orientated field.
Asking what questions enable you to find a solution that works for you during this pandemic. I was working with a client the other day and we were joking about the tv series The Big Bang Theory’s character Sheldon. Uber smart, zero personality and yet to manage his anxieties and fears he has contingencies like a disaster management bag.
So asking yourself a What question today could help you map out what’s in your lockdown plan?
What type of exercise can you do and schedule it in? Give yourself the heads start and leave your running shoes at the front door!
What meals are easy to prepare?
What games can I play with my kids?
What people are on my contact list? Perhaps create a contact schedule so you’re reaching out to your tribe on a regular basis.
What project can I start or finish and make use of the lockdown time?
One of the most empowering things you can gift yourself is to ask yourself what questions? Asking yourself “what can I learn from this experience?” literally reprogram your conscious brain into solution-seeking actions, rather than hosting a pity party.
Migrating through these stressful experiences can be tough. You get thrown so many lessons to learn about yourself. Asking what questions enables you to have some little bit of control of the many small things you can implement looking forward in your life.
Karen Humphries is a Kinesiology Practitioner, Health & Business Coach, LEAP & NES Practitioner, and self-confessed laughaholic. She is an avid Breast Cancer Advocate residing in Gippsland Victoria Australia. She loves being of service to the world with her humorous and positive approach to life, encouraging people to ‘choose to change and bloom from within.’