How To Find A Why: Whys & Excuses Part II
by Harry Palmer
This is Part II of Whys & Excuses, a lecture given on August 16, 1985.
A situation is a non-optimum condition. Flat tires, broken windows, poor health, emotional upsets, failed businesses, etc., are all situations.
Now there is one very obvious thing we have to do in order to find out WHY a situation has occurred. We have to look! We have to actually look at what’s there, at what happened, at what’s occurring, and that may not always be that easy. Sometimes there are cover-ups. Maybe someone would just as soon not be found out. In this case, there is a prior step to finding the WHY; you first have to find the WHO. This applies when you are managing organizations. When you are managing your own life, don’t worry about the WHO.
The WHO is ME! Whoops!
So something has gone wrong in our life. Something didn’t work out. We find ourselves experiencing something darker and more painful... something in the realm of guilt, blame, or regret. There is a situation. We can let time work it out for us, and maybe in a week or a year we’ll feel better. BUT WE WON’T GET ANY SMARTER! If we don’t know what caused it, the same thing could happen again... at any time... anywhere... we better be careful! The paranoia factor in our life is about to increase.
We need to find a WHY for the situation’s occurrence.
What makes this WHY so hard to find? Why is it so hard to see?
It’s transparent! WHYs are transparent beliefs!
A transparent belief is something that persists obstinately in the mind and tends to control the thoughts, observations and actions of a being. But since it is transparent, we look right through it and see... an excuse! Excuses! Fear of experiencing a whoops! That’s really what an excuse is, fear of experiencing a whoops.
The most common excuse is, I ALREADY KNOW.
I ALREADY KNOW!
If that’s true, then the WHY for the situation is that we intentionally wanted to make ourselves feel bad — which I doubt. Maybe there are some masochists in the world, but I’m willing to bet that I ALREADY KNOW, is not the source of the situation, but an excuse that prevents the situation from getting sorted out. If we really did know, there wouldn’t be a situation in the first place.
As long as we think we already know, there’s no point in looking for a WHY to remedy the situation. Even if we do look, we’ll probably substitute what we know for what we are looking at. We know what we are going to see, right? Yeah! YEAH!
I ALREADY KNOW has a familiar feel about it. Do you recognize that feeling? It’s yeah. Right? I already know... YEAH! And it’s not my fault.
Okay, time for a big WHOOPS! If I know why I feel bad and I still can’t do anything about it — WHOOPS, WHOOPS, WHOOPS — I’m operating on a transparent belief!
I’ll give you a real life example of a transparent belief. I had a student who insisted that he couldn’t type. That was his transparent belief. He would state it matter-of-factly as if it were an obvious truth, “I can’t type.”
Silly me, I failed to recognize this as a fixed idea and told him to place the fingers of his left hand on ASDF on the keyboard. He couldn’t do it! He couldn’t find ASDF on the keyboard because he knew he couldn’t type.
So I showed him the keys. He still couldn’t do it. He couldn’t bend his fingers to fall in a straight line over ASDF. He knew he couldn’t type. I won’t even burden you with the excuses he gave me as to why he couldn’t type.
Here’s the whoops part. Instead of observing that he had a transparent belief that he couldn’t type, I was operating on my own transparent belief that, “Anyone can learn to type.”
Can you see where we were going? He was insisting that he couldn’t type and I was insisting that anyone could type. It probably would have ended up with both of us being mad and blaming the other. (Blaming someone else is just another variety of excuse.)
Excuses are the responsibility limiters that convey the message that one is not at fault. The most acceptable excuses are explanations that people will readily agree with; they evoke a “Yeah!” response.
Whys are the real reason that something occurs. One can do something about WHYs. They are a recognition of responsibility and evoke a “Whoops!” response when they are discovered.
We were about to create a new situation. And the WHY for the new situation? I was operating on a transparent belief! Can you feel the whoops there? I sure could.
So I woke up before I created a situation and saved the day by confessing. “Sorry, I just had the belief that everyone could type.”
A funny thing happened. When I voiced my transparent belief, he started to inspect his own. Out of nowhere, he suddenly remembered, “I jammed the keys on my father’s typewriter and bent something. I think I decided then that I couldn’t type.”
And the final outcome, he started teaching himself how to type. True story.
Not all transparent beliefs are that obvious or surrender that easily. Some prejudices are fixed by so much repeated indoctrination or painful experience that a person will just outright refuse to inspect them. The person’s behavior will appear stupid or even bizarre. Their whole life becomes one long situation that keeps repeating with slight variation. Unable or unwilling to find the WHY for their life situation, they invent excuses like fate, God’s will, and government oppression.
The ability to recognize that we don’t know cannot be overvalued. It allows us to look beyond our excuses and find the real cause of things. It is a measure of our courage. It determines whether we go through life diminishing our power, or we look for the real WHYs that allow us to change difficult situations into optimum circumstances.
When we find ourselves with a situation that does not readily resolve, it is because the real WHY is not found. The real WHY will be a cause that is contrary to what we believe we already know. And that’s our clue to finding it. It will come as a new insight. A surprise. A whoops!
When we’re willing to experience that whoops, we are going to start having realizations. We are going to begin to spot some major transparent beliefs for some major difficulties in our lives and in our world.
The recognition that something can be done is going to wash over us like a wave, and excuses are going to drop away.