The Use Of Why: But Why On Earth?

the use of why

What’s happening with the use of why? There’s a lot written about ‘why’ we do (or fail to do) things. Specialists in motivation, therapy, training and coaching and many others often write well about it. But why on earth is ‘why’ a buzzword noun?

Sometimes the use of ‘why’ as a noun works.

Phrases such as Exploring the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ of marketing and Discovering the power of ‘why’, for example, make perfect sense.

The use of why: the problem

Unfortunately, the bandwagon jumpers take it further. The power of ‘why’ goes to their heads and the use of ‘why’ in blog posts, articles and online course titles means common sense and straightforward meaning fly out the window.

Here are just a few examples of real titles I’ve seen in the past few months:

  • Walking your why
  • Living your why
  • Finding the heartbeat of your why

And, wait for it…

  • Elevate your why.

The solution

Criticism is pointless without constructive suggestions, so here goes:

First, say what you mean. People will really appreciate it. And, at the very least, you will stand out from the ‘buzzwordy’ clones.

Second, try these suggested replacements.
I have also ditched the overused ‘-ing’ forms that most people seem to be addicted to.

  • Finding your why – What motivates you? What’s the rationale behind what you do? Examine your reasons for doing X
  • Walking your why – Do the things that matter; act to fulfil or achieve your purpose
  • Living your why – Live according to your beliefs or principles (but I would have thought that’s a ‘what’)
  • Finding the heartbeat of your why – a really bizarre one. Could the author be saying ‘Is your motivation still alive?’ If it’s puzzling, it’s not working
  • Elevate your why – Sorry, I give up on this one.

If my suggestions have changed the authors’ intended meaning, then the point is proved more strongly. Language shouldn’t be a guessing game or a riddle to solve.

If you have the answer to what on earth ‘Elevate your why’ means, please let me know.

See my article The ‘Elevate’ Buzzword: Get Off The Elevator.

Read about more ways to Lift Your Language.

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