By Jyoti 2020-11-09

Let’s flex our imaginations, shall we? You’re composing the seventh iteration (V7) of your Common Application. You’re hitting all the right notes. Each sentence unfolds a distinct melody. There’s a certain rhythm—it grips the reader, permeating their thoughts and emotions. “Eureka!” You exclaim, marching into your counselor’s office. Your ears tingle at the slightest sensation. Ah, the sweet nectar of appreciation!  

“The language is good, but the narrative is loose. You should work on the transitions, make them smooth!” 

V8 sure doesn’t feel nice. “Why can’t I get it right?”

While self-reflection and introspection are universally heralded as harbingers of success and happiness, there’s a way to knowing thyself, and asking ‘why’ ain’t it. 

‘Why’ impedes you with a false sense of satisfaction. You pounce at readily available explanations, a mere shadow of the summit, reluctant to scale greater heights. “This can be the result of our innate confirmation bias, which prompts us to lean towards reasons that confirm our existing beliefs.” Moreover, research suggests that ‘why’ questions can cause “people to fixate on their problems and place blame instead of moving forward in a healthy and productive way.” 

If not why, then what!

Asking ‘why’ seats you in a “victim mentality”, driving you to rationalize and justify your limitations. Seeking answers to ‘what’, however, helps you visualize your potential and work toward creating a better future. 

Why can’t I get it right?” leads you to “I am a bad writer.” 

“What can’t I get right?” gets you to “Narrative structure.” 

‘Why’ is an endless pit; ‘what’, a sprouting seed—nudging you to identify your shortcomings and shoot your issues. Armed with these insights, you’re more likely to transform yourself by taking tangible steps. 

So, should you abandon ‘why’? Not really. 

‘Why’ questions are helpful when you want to assess things external—events and environments—to yourself. If your club isn’t gaining traction, you should ask 'why'. There’s probably something wrong with your outreach/marketing strategy, and ‘why’ questions can be instrumental in identifying those loopholes! 

Nonetheless, if you want to understand yourself, be sure to ask what not why!