Have you ever done something – yes that something, only to wonder later, “Why the hell did I do that?”… often followed by an avalanche of fiery expletives aimed at yourself, a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach, a raging headache, seething anger, throbbing guilt, and – once exhausted – a deep, prolonged funk? I think we’d agree those times generally do not relate to something you did that you later thought was good! It was something that you believed – in retrospect – was bad, stupid, idiotic, absurd, outrageous, ignorant, careless, thoughtless, etc., etc. Most of us have an uncanny ability to come up with endless negative self-judgments! Such episodes of regretful reflection can harm one’s self confidence, self esteem, feelings of self worth. Sometimes they can really set you back, causing doubts and fears to arise as “protection” against repeating the mistake, often effectively shutting down any kind of meaningful activity. For some, a kind of self flagellation is summoned-up, taking one down a dark, slippery slope that can be increasingly difficult to extricate oneself from. And, yet, it is likely not enough to prevent another (and another, and another) episode of self-inquiry: “Why the hell did I do that?!” … followed by all of the inevitable fall-out.
Of course, there is fall-out is whether you ask the question or not, whether you acknowledge the reality of your prior actions or not. When we do something that really is kinda dumb, we feel it afterwards… though sometimes only after someone else points it out to us or the fall-out starts showing-up. Asking the question somehow just gives us permission to act-out on the fall-out.
Implicit in the question is another question, which is particularly irksome in hindsight: “Why didn’t I ask “why?” before I did that?” Ooh, what an awesome idea that would have been! Actually, we may have asked, and – on some level – probably did. We may even have struggled subconsciously with “why?”, only for the question to get overwhelmed (or intoxicated or numbed) by the desire – in that moment of decision – to get the pleasure we longed for or avoid the pain we sought to escape from. Or both.
So how can we use “why?” – now – in this moment of decision? How can we have the presence of mind to consciously inquire when we need to, and then follow the wisdom revealed by this honest inquiry? In other words, how can we ask “why?” in a way that actually helps us avoid the poor decision that leads us down the rocky road of regret? And the next?
We have to know – now, in the moment of decision – where we are and where we want to go. Having clarity regarding where we are right now – physically and emotionally – and clarity about the direction we are headed, gives us the rationale and makes possible the motivation we need to make a wise decision in the moment: a decision to forge a path of intention or stay the course of consistent action that avoids the traps we fall into when wandering aimlessly, walking in circles, or stuck in place.
So, if you find yourself wondering (in a rather pejorative way) “why did I do that?”, consider exploring the following questions to get your bearings, clarify your direction, and tap into your why… right now.
These questions are about “where” you are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. The physical component is about what you are feeling in your body – the experiences and emotions you are embodying. There may be a link to your physical location as well, but the focus here is on where you are in your mind, heart and body.
An example of this flow of self-inquiry might be:
Get clarity around these questions as a practice, applying them to any challenge or struggle you face – small or large. In time, it will begin to become natural to ask “why?” now! – in this moment, when it matters – and respond with decisions that steer clear of the road to hell and keep you happily walking your Why! When to begin? Why, now!