A Coaching Power Tool By Ghadeer Alsulami, Transformational Coach, SAUDI ARABIA
The Difference Between Why vs. What
I would like to start my paper by explaining how is this tool affected my life tremendously. I have spent so many years of my life reading lots of self-help books that focused on the what. How to be happy, how to be rich, how to have friends… etc. I never paused to ask myself why. Until I met first my therapist who asked me lots of questions that involved why. The journey with the question of why made me realize that I was operating on fear most of my life. Fear of living life or making any mistake. That’s why I was reading self-help books a lot to find a recipe on how to live life in a perfect way cause mistakes are not acceptable in my life. I remember asking the therapist why do I see the sadness in everyone’s eyes and he said it’s because you are the sad one. It shocked me. I was all my life focusing on what to do next rather than on why do I want to do it.
My journey with the why didn’t end there as I continued to work with people who focus on the why. Recently I have worked with Noor Azzony who prefers to call himself an alchemist or a soul guider and believe me his work transformed my life. All he cares about is the why. I found myself so addicted the what to do next and he always puts me back to ask why do I want it. Surprisingly, I found having many habits and setting many goals to please others or to be loved and accepted. I was operating from the unconscious mind which wanted a parent from many relationships with others. Asking the why transformed my life. I believe in it and I would like to use it with my clients to help them identify their uniqueness by identifying the unique why of all the actions they take.
Why vs. What Explanation
Starting with the why question helps the client identify whether they are doing the action for themselves or to please others. The why question focuses on the intention and as a famous writer once said “When the intention is clear the mechanism appears”.
A famous story I heard once is of a person who was working so hard to climb a ladder and when he reached the top of the ladder he found out he placed his ladder on the wrong wall. Focusing on the what without knowing the why can put the person at the risk of being used by others to reach their goals rather than yours. Also, there will always be more to do and it will never end because the meaning of life to the person is just doing so they spend all their lives in the doing and never escape the hamster wheel.
An example of the way I can use this power tool in my coaching sessions is to start with the question “What would you like to achieve by the end of this session?” Then follow it with the crucial question “Why is this important to you?”. On one hand, the what question has the potential to lead us to techniques and strategies that helps the client get to their goal. On the other hand, the why question will allow the client to explore whether their goal aligns with her/his inner values. From my personal experience with clients, sometimes when we dig deeper into the client’s motives the client might find out that the goal is not theirs and instead its chosen based on what they thought is expected from them. Also, asking why has the possibility of changing the path of the session and the client might choose another outcome by the end of the session that is more aligned with them.
In conclusion, I believe fulfilling and authentic life is based on the alignment and the balance between the heart and the mind. To me, the why the question is related to the heart and core values, and the what question is related to the mind and based on steps and strategies and that’s exactly what the mind craves. All in all, the key to successful sessions is to stay flexible and open to the client’s expectations, needs, and state of mind.