The difference between ‘why’ and ‘what’

“”Why?” is the most useless question in the universe. The only question with any meaning is “What?” Asking “Why is this happening?” can only disempower you. Asking “What do I want to make of this?” does exactly the opposite. Here is a great secret: the Why of anything is to produce the What of everything.” — Neale Donald Walsch

One of the favorite questions of every curious child is ‘why?’  When my son was going through the ‘why?’ stage I remember how frustrating it was to come up with answers to some of his questions.  While some answers were easy to explain, really thinking about why things happen is often baffling.  There are times when asking ‘why’ can be helpful.  There are cause/effect relationships.  By understanding how two objects or events are interrelated we can learn and grow.  Once we learn why, we can make predictions and better control our environment.  The problem is, many questions in life do not have a satisfying answer to ‘why.’

When we begin to ask questions like; ‘Why do some people have lives filled with suffering and hardship while others have it easy?’ or ‘Why do some people die so young?’ or ‘Why doesn’t God bring peace to our planet?’ or even ‘Why didn’t I get the dream job I was applying for?’ there are no simple explanations for ‘why?’  These are the big life questions that defy simple answers to ‘why?’  When people get stuck in the ‘why’ questions it becomes disempowering.  It begins to feel like we are the victim of life and are powerless to control everything.  Then the big question becomes, ‘Why even try?’

There is another question that is more powerful.  Instead of focusing on why, instead ask, ‘What do I want to make of this?’  The shift from ‘Why is this happening?’ to ‘What can I do about it?’ creates a different energy in the question.  ‘Why’ is passive, ‘What’ is active.  When we ask what we want to make of a situation, we have a choice.  We have the power to define how we handle every situation.  Asking ‘what’ instead of ‘why’ takes no more effort, but it can create different results.  What will you do with this information?

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