Understanding: How or Why?

I’ve recently become aware that there are two levels of understanding: how something works and why it works that way. On the surface this distinction is fairly obvious, but its implications are intriguing.

Understanding how

It’s often easier to understand how something works than why it works. Once we understand how something works, we can employ it regularly and get consistent results. For example, I know that any of us can tap into our subconscious mind consciously and at will. The key is understanding how to do it.

Understanding why

Yet, when I’m asked why the subconscious works the way it does, I have to admit that I don’t have a clue. Would I like to understand? Of course. But is it essential for my ability to utilize the power of my subconscious mind? Absolutely not.

Don’t let why get in the way

While I applaud efforts to understand why things work as they do, all too often I see people underutilize what works because they don’t understand why it works. What a terrible waste of knowledge. They’re wasting how knowledge because they don’t possess why knowledge.

For you

As you discover what works well for you, continue to use it…regardless of whether you understand why it works or not. Frequent use of what works often leads to an understanding of why it works. But even when it doesn’t, don’t forgo efforts that produce results just because you can’t explain why it works.

We humans have a natural tendency to resist what we don’t understand. Because we often don’t understand why something works, we are skeptical. We doubt that it’ll work consistently. You can overcome this natural tendency by reminding yourself that as each use of the process produces the desired result, you’ll feel comfortable employing it again and again. That’s true whether you understand why it works or not.

If you desire to investigate why something works, go for it. Just don’t let your efforts dissuade you from using what you know works.

For our kids

As your kids question why something works as it does, be honest with them and admit that you don’t know why it works that way. Make them aware that understanding how something works is more important than why it works the way it does. 

Help them see that understanding how it works enables them to produce the desired result. Understanding why it works will lead to greater understanding, but won’t necessarily impact the results they get.

Encourage the pursuit of why when you see that they’re intrigued by something that works, but remind them to continue to employ what they do understand, how it works.

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I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your thoughts in a comment.

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