Why we need to talk about Whys

Paul Sockett
4 min readMay 21, 2021

Yo Yo Yo! Oh, wait, sorry. Why, oh why, oh why…oh!

After your post-wordplay sigh you may ask, “Why do we need to talk about Whys?” Great question.

The more I work directly with people on their Stuff and their relationship with it — and simply watching people exist in the world today — the more I notice that those 3 letters contain a LOT of energy when put together in that order (the ? is not always required); I notice 2 ways in which that energy manifests — curiosity and scarcity.

It’s important to share what I, personally, mean by curiosity and scarcity in this context; then we are all on the same page.

(psst. I’ll be writing a bloggy thing about definitions at some point cos I think they’re VERY important, but back to this topic)

Curiosity and Scarcity…

  • Curiosity is an ‘in-to-out’ energy; its flows from intuition and desire and self-agency.
  • Scarcity is an ‘out-to-in’ energy; it arrives via conditioning and sales and a perceived absence of self-agency.

We are bombarded with messaging that tells us it’s important, nay vital, to the very continuance of the human race to…

“Find your why”; “Discover your why”; “Buy this 5-step why-finding process because you are ruining your life, and the lives of others, if you don’t”

…in order to be vital to the very continuance of the human race. Yeesh! Pressure much?!

Anyone else read, heard or been the recipient of, “But what’s your why?”

Urgh. I think I was just sick in my mouth a bit thinking about it. “No, thanks” disembodied question asker. Move on.

It’s at this point I let you know that I do think Whys are important, and yes, I meant to pluralise because I believe there are 3 types of Why. Go with me on this:

  • The Present Why (the one we are told to believe is outside of us, somewhere to be ‘found’). It is wants-based.
  • The Past and Future Whys (the ones we are told to believe are inside us — constants — that we must accept and for better or worse (usually worse) represent who we are and what we deserve). They are shoulds-based.

For the record, I don’t believe Past and Future Whys are the enemy; they are simply parts of an identity we learned as a child in order to feel as safe and as in control as possible in our environments and relationships. And that’s ok. AND they don’t have to be true any more. Defeat is not the objective; it’s understanding. Here’s a hypothetical:

Say you have an ornament. It was gifted to you during a relationship (the relationship may still exist or it may not — it doesn’t matter). You are moving house and you are in the process of boxing up. You’ve decided to do some sorting out along the way. You come to the ornament. It’s on the shelves in the living room/study/bedroom among other things. You had sort of forgotten you had it. Time is a thing right now, and other things are always a thing and they eventually masked it. You pick it up and you reminisce; it transports you back to when, how and why it was given to you (if you still remember). Either way, you feel feelings, which is completely normal. The subjectivity of the Past and Future lens is solidly locked in place as you ask yourself the question, “Get rid, or don’t get rid?” (The language used here is something I will talk about in another post, but let’s stay with the Whys).

Past Why reminds you of aaaall the reasons why you kept it in the first place…”it was a gift; from someone special; on an ‘important’ anniversary; you are a good person for having kept it. Respectful. Honouring the love shown to you in gift form!” Past goes on…

Future Why doesn’t wait for Past Why to finish. Future has been relaying aaaall the reasons why you should continue to keep it…”you will upset the gift-giver (even if the relationship doesn’t exist anymore); you are throwing away all the happy memories; the relationship will have been a waste if you don’t keep a keep sake for Heaven’s sake; once it’s gone it’s gone, and that’s a BAD thing, and makes you a bad person”.

If that made you feel some unpleasant or difficult feelings, that’s ok. Take a moment to breathe in and out intentionally. There’s no rush. I’m here when you are ready to continue

Now, Present Why is always, well, present, but doesn’t try to persuade or sway. Present Why trusts you, always, and will continue to show up and calmly ask, “do you want or need this now, in this moment?” No Shoulds, in any tense.

Present Why never judges, nor requires the threat of others’ judgement to ‘help’ you. The gift Present Why offers is the release of the ‘success or failure’ paradigm. Specifically it helps release failure. Success only exists because failure exists. The fear of failure means we need to succeed to avoid it. Remove failure and success can’t survive.

Realigning takes practice. It needs you to simply gather more information and practice asking for help. Simple, but not easy. Conditioning is life-long and no joke! If it was easy, no-one would sacrifice to appease, please and shrink. There’s no destination, only the visits you make along the way and the information you gather to make conscious choices.

You deserve to tell the story that is true to you today, and in every moment to come.

Much ginger love



Paul Sockett

A silly & sensitive storyteller; a word reframer. I am a fierce advocate for Shame- & Scarcity-free choice. 🍦 inspires me: https://ko-fi.com/paulsockett