I was in a work planning meeting recently (I do PR for a living) and we had a guest speaker who shared tips with us for better story telling. One concept that resonated with me was his recommendation to ‘ask why five times’ in order to get to the core of any idea, challenge or cause to extract it’s real meaning and purpose (great starting point for brainstorm meetings, btw). What I liked most was that this concept could be applied to so many areas of life, not just at work. Let me illustrate one example for you. I recently had a conversation with someone close to me who was struggling with motivation and feeling badly about herself. She continually attributed her feelings of frustration and low self-esteem to her lack of control.
1. Why is it important for you to feel in control?
I guess because it gives my life purpose. I hate when my emotions derail my plans, and when I feel in control, I don’t eat a thousand m&m’s out of boredom or procrastinate going to the gym because I have a purpose for going and a purpose for making good, healthy decisions.
2. Why is it important for your life to have purpose?
Because if I don’t have purpose I won’t make goals or accomplish anything. I have to have a purpose or a reason why I’m doing something, especially if it’s hard.
3. Why does it matter if you accomplish anything?
I don’t like myself when I’m not working toward things and trying to be better. If I don’t accomplish anything, I’d feel like I don’t matter and I’m not of any value to anyone. What would be the point?
4. Why does it matter if you’re of value to anyone?
I don’t know. I just know Heavenly Father put us down here for a reason and I think it’s important for us to serve each other and learn from each other. But when I don’t feel motivated to contribute and I don’t feel like doing anything or being around anyone, I think Heavenly Father would be disappointed in me for that.
5. Why does it matter if Heavenly Father is disappointed in you?
Because there’s no one else. If I don’t have him, there’s no one else to be there for me or care about what I do. If I disappoint him, I might as well not be here.
So as long as you’re in control, Heavenly Father won’t be disappointed in you?
Of course, she’s sobbing by this point. But it was so eye opening for both of us to uncover what it is that she truly believes (or fears). Everything we do comes out of who we believe we are. And how we see ourselves ultimately determines how we act (which is why it’s so important for us to like ourselves… read my last post on that here
This exercise didn’t solve her problems or immediately change how she’d been feeling, but it gave clarity to her perspective and made it easier to understand her emotions. Just like it’s easier to cope with sickness when we can put a label on it (i.e., I feel sick because I have the flu), understanding our belief system makes it so much easier to deal with the ups and downs of our emotions so we can keep moving forward.