Are you experiencing progress in your career or business? Or does it feel like you’re just drifting along, moving in circles?
Getting what you want out of life is about more than just hard work and determination. If you don’t know where you’re going or why you’re headed there, all the persistence in the world won’t help.
When we look at the big picture, we usually think about WHAT we do and HOW we do it. But if you feel like you’re adrift, there’s another important question lurking in the shadows – WHY.
You have to know your ‘why’ before you can figure out the ‘how’.
The Importance of Knowing Your Why
To grow in life, you need to clarify and understand your ‘why’. Here’s why it’s so important.
- Your ‘Why’ Motivates You. Any kind of success takes time, dedication, and hard work. Your ‘why’ is the driving force that keeps you going and helps you stay motivated when things get tough.
- Your ‘Why’ Keeps You Focused. Your ‘why’ orients you and keeps you on track. By staying connected with your values, you stay focused on what’s important. Tap into this vision for your life when it’s time to make decisions.
- Living Your Life with Passion. Knowing your ‘why’ puts you in touch with your passion. You’ll be living your authentic life and doing what you love. All of your goals will be infused with this energy and you’ll produce better results.
- Your ‘Why’ Is Yours Alone. Without a ‘why’, you end up living your life for others. Without your own map, other people will drag you along on their journey. You may think you’re doing it for yourself, but you’re actually trying to please others or living out a script you’ve been handed. When you clarify your ‘why’ you own what you’re doing. You do it all for yourself.
In your personal life, if you don’t clarify your ‘why’, you’ll end up wasting your time and energy on things that don’t matter. Ultimately, you’ll be living a life without purpose.
What Does Your ‘Why’ Look Like?
The best way to clarify your ‘why’ is to write a statement that concisely explains why you do what you do. This should be something you can look at for inspiration. Later, you can use this ‘why statement’ as the basis for your personal brand vision.
Your ‘why’ includes your own motivation for doing what you do. It may explain how you provide value for others, what change you’re trying to make in the world, or how you do things differently than others.
This statement should be clear, simple, and specific. The best ‘why’ statements are actionable. Simon Sinek, the author who first wrote on this subject, suggests this format:
“To ______ so that ______.”
The statement above explains what you do and the reason for doing it. Also, using this format forces you to pare it down to what’s most important.
Here are a few examples:
“To help people feel more connected and present so that they find true meaning in work and life.”
“To push myself to be the best I can be so that I am there for myself, my family, and the people I love.”
“To unlock my creative potential so that I can make things that entertain and delight and inspire others to do the same.”
These examples are not as general as, “to be happy,” but they’re broad enough to cover your personal and professional life. The ‘why’ statement shouldn’t be limited to a specific area of your life (e.g. work, family), but should cover your life as a whole.
How to Clarify Your ‘Why’
The best way to discover your why is to ask yourself very specific and important questions that are designed to reveal what’s important to you. Reflect on these 5 questions and see what you come up with.
1. What Do You Love Doing?
What do you look forward to doing when you roll out of bed in the morning? Which activities cause you to lose all track of time? In your work life, what would you do even if you weren’t getting paid?
2. What Do You Do Well?
If you do something well, there’s a good chance it’s deeply connected to your ‘why.’ Think about things you do better than others. What do people regularly praise you for?
3. What Would You Fight for?
Think about the tough times. The setbacks. What would you fight for? Think about all the times you never gave up and ask yourself why.
4. What Pain or Problem Drives You to Take Action?
Think about an issue that inspires you to take action. What problems are you eager to solve for yourself or others? This question helps reveal the change you want to make in the world.
5. Who Inspires You and Why?
Ask yourself who inspires you and why. Reflecting on the life of those you admire helps you to understand your own dreams and motivations.
Finally, here’s a very important unofficial sixth question:
“Yes, but really, why?”
Reflect on your answers to the first 5 questions and then dig a bit deeper with question 6. Ask yourself why you REALLY do all of the above. We often provide answers that we think are expected of us. The ‘right’ answer. Question 6 will help you discard the reflexive, superficial answers and get to the heart of your ‘why’.
Putting Your Why into Action
How do you use your ‘why’ in your life and professional career? Like anything else, your ‘why’ needs a test drive.
Take a look at your current goals. Are they closely related to your ‘why’? Now that you understand what drives you, you may realize a goal doesn’t quite align. Try tweaking or creating new goals that are a better fit.
Your ‘why’ also dictates how you will work and carry out your daily activities. Once you clarify your ‘why’, put it to use and track your results. For example, if helping others is a key part of your ‘why,’ implement some daily strategies to help others and see how it feels.
It’s important to write down your ‘why’. With this in mind, you might also consider keeping a journal about this process. Write about your newly discovered core values and how you use them to stay inspired, make decisions, and set goals. This can help you to further refine your ‘why’.
Unlock the Meaning of Your Life and Live Better
Some of us stumble through our lives searching for meaning. By asking yourself some questions and doing a bit of work, you can clarify this now and start living with purpose today. A clear-eyed understanding of your ‘why’ is a major factor in your success in life and business. Ready to turn your why into action? Join the next Become Corporate Board Ready Information Session to learn how you can use your why and get a seat at the table to make substantive change.