There has been a lot of buzz about WHY the power outage happened at the Super Bowl. I have an answer to that one. Here it is. Get ready. Because stuff like that happens. It’s part of chaos theory, right? It’s evidence of the “s*%^ happens” clause. Whether a Niners fan sabotaged the power box or Beyoncé blew out the circuits or the convention down the street gobbled up the electricity, it’s still part of the surprising, unpredictable, and disruptive quality of this thing we call life.
Sometimes asking WHY is not the most helpful question. One of my spiritual teachers, Dr. Marie, called WHY the question of the inner toddler. It is the question that voices our demanding need to know and that is rarely satisfied with the answer. In fact, that child-part of us often asks WHY simply to find a reason to be angry, entitled, or victimized. Often, there is not a truly satisfying or productive (in terms of handling the situation) answer to WHY questions.
The more helpful question is HOW.
Think about it. When the power went out at the Super Bowl, two teams were undoubtedly asking WHY it was happening. But here is the HOW question. HOW do we handle this power outage happening in the middle of the most important game of our lives? Clearly, San Francisco did a better job with this HOW question during the Super Bowl. Asking WHY would have been a waste of mental/emotional resources during that moment. How often are we spending our energy on WHY when we ought to shift to HOW?
- Why do I eat so much junk food? vs. How do I live healthier with these overwhelming urges?
- Why is God allowing this to happen to me? vs. How is God meeting me in this and how can I utilize my spiritual resources?
- Why is my spouse so annoying? vs. How can I handle my irritation?
- Why does my boss give preference to the younger employees? vs. How might I best present myself to my boss and ask for what I want?
- Why am I like this? vs. How do I deal tenderly with myself when I’m so moody?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that developing insight about your motives is a waste of time, but staying in the WHY sometimes leads to bitterness and avoidance of the present-day work. The best psychotherapists know when to lead clients to address which question. Too often, the HOW is ignored and the WHY is overemphasized, leading to months in therapy with no evidence of life change!
Doing well with the HOW question almost enabled the San Francisco to take the Super Bowl from the Ravens. Thankfully, it seems that in the fourth quarter, the Ravens may have shifted from WHY to HOW:
- Why did this momentum shift like this? Vs. How do we turn the tide on this momentum shift?
Where are you asking WHY when you would benefit from shifting to HOW?