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  • Writer's pictureAngela Smith

What for instead of why – A question that enables development


A few years ago, after the birth of my second son, when I received only a few assignments as a freelance language teacher, I had to reorient my career. I liked teaching, I liked working with groups, I especially enjoyed planning and conducting my lessons creatively. However, the work did not fulfill me personally and for years I had longed to dedicate myself to a task that would give me a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment. There were several external reasons that explained why I had not obtained many contracts any more – a longer parental leave, lack of recognition of my studies from abroad, strong competition in a multicultural city, etc. Perhaps the answer to the question of “why” helped me to not blame myself too much and not consider myself a failure. For my further development, however, this question was did not go far enough. Looking back, I am grateful that this door was closed to me because this way I was asked to take a new path and embark on a journey that step by step led me to my goal: a work that gives me great joy and sense of purpose and fulfillment that I had longed for. Fate – others may call it the universe or even God – opened new doors for me and put people at my side who supported me on my path. Today I can clearly see a sense of purpose in the way things have turned out. When we look at events in biographical coaching or biography work – especially major turning points – we consider the question of “what for?”. The question “why” seeks an explanation for the causes of events in the past. It helps us understand and classify events, actions and consequences, but the explanations end in the past. If , however, we ask what certain events, decisions, consequences might have served us for, the possible answers point to the future. Often we cannot find objective answers to this question and we are asked to create a hypothesis. This way, we are encouraged to go deeper, to explore our own needs, desires and values, and to search for meaning in events and fates. Asking this question requires courage, the willingness to take a change of perspective and to take active control of our lives. As a Biographical Counsellor I can support you on your path! “The question that points towards the future allows us to look at our own active share, the confidence that life continues. “ - Mathias Wais

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