Consider two common questions: “What?” and “Why?”

The order in which these questions are asked is very important. For example, after some cataclysmic event, one might commonly ask, “What happened?” and then, “Why did it happen?”

They are important questions. The answers to these questions are essential to prevention and replication: taking action to prevent something bad from being repeated, and learning how to replicate a more favorable outcome.

But this sequence – What/Why – is reactive in nature.

I believe there is a better way to ask these two questions, before the event occurs. First, consider “Why” you want a certain outcome, and then ask “What” can be done to bring it to fruition. This approach is active and actionable.

Of course, this method of thinking comes before an undesirable result or event, rather than post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). You may have heard the statement that there are three types of people: those who watch things happen, those who make things happen, and those who wonder what happened.  I want to be the person making things happen.

By first understanding WHY you want what you want, your resolve to do whatever it takes to realize your desired end result will be much stronger.

If you want to get out of debt, but are prone to impulse spending, you need a clear resolution of “Why” being debt-free is important to you. If you want to lose weight but love sweets, you need to understand “Why” losing that weight means more to you than a plate of brownies. If you want to read more books but have trouble making the time, you need to start with “Why” you want to build your knowledge.

After thorough consideration of “Why” you want something, the next step is to ask “What” needs to be done to bring your goal to fruition. At this point, you can construct a plan for specific actions that will produce your desired end result.

It all depends on which side of the equation you are on. There is a definite advantage to asking “What?/Why?” if you are in the aftermath of an event, and need to understand how to move forward. But it’s better to be proactive and to ask “Why?/What?” first. In doing so, you’ll have much more control over the outcome.

In almost ten years of coaching business leaders, executives, and owners across the U.S. and in Canada, I have seen people enjoy phenomenal results by asking the “Why” question first.

In which order do you usually find yourself asking these questions?