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Are you frustrated at work? Change everything with “What” instead of “Why”

The professional world of sports is a case study of what it means to be fully committed to winning no matter what. To prepare for writing this, I did some research to find out how many athletes came out of retirement to seeking a championship title they never won. The answer to that is more […]

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The professional world of sports is a case study of what it means to be fully committed to winning no matter what. To prepare for writing this, I did some research to find out how many athletes came out of retirement to seeking a championship title they never won. The answer to that is more than I can list here. I can say that some of them were successful and were able to come back bigger and better. Some of them wished they had stayed in retirement because they left the game with bigger regrets the second time around. With those regrets, even the fans may have asked along with them the biggest question of all, “Why?”

Why is such a loaded question

In the every day work place, offices and schools, there is not a competition that is viewed on national tv in the same way as athletes. Nevertheless there is a competition. The competition is for awards, rewards, promotions, resources, accolades, and oftentimes a simple thank you for a job well done. From personal experience and conversation with the frontline it is not uncommon for workers to feel overlooked and underappreciated. This leaves people asking, “Why?” I find it ironic that two groups at very two different levels of financial status and societal acclaim are both in a similar situation.

Change the question

First things first. I’m not against asking why. That is typically where I start, and would guess that many of us start there. The case that I am making here is for the next question to be what. To make this crystal clear it is probably best if I give an example of an internal dialogue that could happen:

“I don’t like my job”

“why”

“I don’t get along with my boss and co-workers”

“They are irritating.”

“why”

See how this could go on and on forever.

Instead, try this:

“I don’t like my job”

“why”

“I don’t get along with my boss and co-workers”

“They are irritating.”

“What can I do that will improve the situation?”

When frustration sets in, it can be difficult to see our way out. Asking ourselves what instead of why interrupts the pattern of thinking that reinforces the story that there is no way out or no way to be joyful in the current situation.

Now Make a Plan

There is more than one way to move forward when you are frustrated. One strategy that sums up all of them for me is borrowed from an expert and thought leader I highly respect, Cy Wakeman.

Answer the What

  1. content
  2. Help others
  3. Stay in Joy or Go in Peace
  4. Invest in Yourself
  5. Focus on being

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