Finding Your Why
Feeling a little lacklustre? Looking for something more? Find your why and put some purpose into your steps with these simple (yet powerful) questions.
By Jack Nodding, 19 July, 2019
We all run into a crisis of self, life, and/or career purpose at some point. That moment when it becomes difficult to get out of bed. Your coffee seems decaffeinated. Work feels like work. And things you used to enjoy aren’t quite ticking the boxes they used to.
It’s natural, it’s normal, it’s okay, and, most importantly, it’s fixable! You just need a self-imposed intervention.
So, sit down. Take a breath. Drink some brain juice, water, coffee, vino, or a chai latte with bee pollen and fairy dust… And get thinking! Spend some quality time with yourself (in a television free zone). And ask the big questions.
Because saying farewell to a life of drudgery means making the time to find your 'why.' As our dearly deceased friend Frederick Nietzsche put it - ‘He (/she) that has a why can endure any how’.
So, discover how you can make your life, work, and life’s work:
a. A little less of an endurance
b. A little more rose-tinted, and
c. A lot more fulfilling
All you need are these simple, yet powerful, questions to find and define your purpose. Spoiler alert, you’ll be asking why a lot.
Finding Your Why Part #1 What drives you?
Understanding your motivations is key for your personal growth journey and work-life fulfilment. Once your intrinsic motivations, (not the ones set by society) are met, you’ll find more passion in what you do.
And when they’re not? Be prepared for itchy feet. And a starring role in the sequel to Les Misérables. Which brings us to our first question.
What drives you through life? It’s a simple question, right?
And, it’s really not. Most answers tend to range from vague and vague-ish, to extremely vague. The reason being? This question is enormous, grandiose, and metaphysical. It goes far beyond the food-water-shelter driving factors.
Think about a time (or times, hopefully, there have been a few) when you’ve been highly motivated. Next up: Don’t try to avoid the low points. Wallow in them! When have you felt most, despairingly, unequivocally demoralised?
You can discover your motivations by reviewing the bad times as much as the good. And once you’ve identified them? Break it down. Take these motivating and demotivating #life moments and dissect them for contributing factors.
Why were they good? Why were they bad? What work were you doing? What relationships did you have? What were your habits at the time? And why exactly did they make you feel a specific way? Answer your hard-hitting questions! Honestly.
Finding Your Why Part #2 What energises you?
What energises you? No, coffee doesn’t count. What activities giveth energy? And which ones taketh away? Think hard. Because finding your mental flow is key to finding purpose and avoiding burn out.
Lay folk and athletes alike know of flow as “being in the zone”. Flow manifests itself when a person’s natural skills align with the challenges they face. And this mental sweet spot, between great strength and great ease, is what fuels you to DO.
So how do you find your energising force? Simple.
When was the last time you were so focused that time stood still, and your physical being seemingly disappeared? When was there only that thing you were doing? That’s your flow.
And every weird thing that’s ever energised and absorbed you is useable. There’s an inner skill in everything. For example:
a. Arguing at the dinner table: debating skills!
b. Making funny phone videos: aspiring comedian or videographer!
c. Organising/ordering siblings around Future manager (or future dictator!)
Your flow state is when you’re naturally performing at your best. Doing without doing, trying without trying, working without working. Find your flow and you find your why. To lead a life of effortless power, rather than powerful effort.
With great passion comes greater fulfilment.
Finding Your Why Part #3 What are you willing to sacrifice for?
Now don’t mistake this as advocacy for burnout. But finding your why comes with a “why not” mindset. Why not sacrifice my house, dignity and seven cats when that thing is so important? That thing you’d sacrifice for is your purpose.
When you find something, you’re willing to sacrifice a lot for, you’ve found your purpose. And finding this special something you’re willing to struggle for is crucial because, unfortunately, struggling is an inevitable fact of life! So, you may as well make it worth your while.
So, ruminate on what that special something would be. Your imaginary sacrifice will put your priorities in perspective. So, you can discover what you really, really, really care about.
Of course, keep your house, dignity and all seven cats intact. But just make sure you pursue that higher purpose worth sacrificing for. Sure, you’ll make a few sacrifices along the way. But at least you’re a willing victim!
And when the sacrificial going gets tough, remember: Happiness requires struggle. Success requires struggle. And purpose definitely requires struggle. So, make the struggle purposeful and reserve your sacrifices for your why. In doing so you will cultivate a mentality of mastery.
Finding Your Why Part #4 Who and how do you want to help?
Serving others isn’t key to finding your life’s purpose per se. But it is significant when it comes to injecting your purpose with more meaning. Your life purpose is firstly about how you can serve you.
And then? It’s about how you can use this purpose to serve others.
So, once you’ve found your why, find ways to make your why more altruistic. And in turn, you’ll make it more purpose-driven. So, define the specific person or people you want to (positively) impact.
The people you serve can be as small as your inner circle; family, friends, colleagues, your local bartender. You know, those people that are immediately accessible and important to you.
Or, this can be as big as your outer circle; those people you don’t even know, but who are connected to issues that deeply move you.
Once you’ve identified who you want to help, and what you’d like to see change, it’s time to think about how you can help.
Without that ego-serving preoccupation with seeking validation. How can you tailor your purpose, your work (unpaid or paid) to benefit others? What time, money or skills could you offer?
Everyone has a why. It’s just a matter of taking the time, be it five minutes or five years, to figure it out. To find and define. So, ask yourself. What drives you? What energises you? What are you willing to sacrifice?
And once you’ve got your why sorted out remember. It doesn’t have to just serve you. A life purpose that serves others is just as, if not more, meaningful. And there’s no shortage of people in need.