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The Why, How and What of Mental Health

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

More than 10 years ago Simon Sinek came up with the “Why, How and What” Golden Circle. This idea is supposed to quickly codify and describe how leaders inspire other people into actions.

Simon claims that by defining and focusing on the “Why” we do something you will have more chance of influencing people's behaviour. You are defining the values on which a company operates and people who share the same values will more likely buy into the company project.

This approach is also the basis of several business models that focus on defining the mission and strategic vision of a company in the start-up phase.

Asking why is another important strategy when it comes to learning. Why is this concept important? This is the single most important question that you need to ask yourself to improve the quality of your understanding and memorization.

However, this “Why, How and What” strategy fails when it comes to solving the problem of anxiety, depression, etc.

When we ask ourselves: “Why am I so anxious?”, “Why did this happen to me?” etc… you are priming your brain into problem-solving mode. However, emotions are not problems to be solved. Since there is no solution to something that is not a problem, the emotional problem cannot be sorted. Emotions are more properly conceptualized as polarities (more of this in another post).

The why question creates a gap between what it is and what it should be: I am anxious, I would like not to be anxious. The problem is “I need to close this gap, I don’t want to feel anxious”. This will set in motion trains of thoughts, all aimed to fix this issue, that will increase your anxiety levels.

What I recommend is to reverse the "Why, How, What" into “What, How, Why?”. If you are anxious, depressed or in any other difficult situation, take a moment and ask yourself: What is this anxiety? Can I be in touch with it? Can I describe it?

By doing so you reduce the chance of your mind entering the problem-solving mode. You are also inviting the noticing part of yourself to come into play.

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