If someone is truly successful in life, you know they’ve got this figured out.
I’m not talking just about people who have killed the money thing. I mean real, all around success.
People who have a life that is working all have this one thing.
And, the beauty of it is, the thing they have isn’t even a thing. It’s an understanding. It’s an understanding that, with the right thinking, you can have, too.
What successful people have is a why. Maybe that sounds simple, but knowing your why and living it is success.
No one’s dream is mediocre. (tweet this)
If others can learn to pin point their purpose and put it into action, so can you.
You’ve likely heard the expression “Know your why” before. Maybe it’s even cliché. But this is an important question to ask:
How well do you know your why?
When you think of it, do you get choked up? Do you tear up?
Does just thinking of your why make you want to tear a hole in the wall RIGHT NOW to escape whatever is keeping you from it?
Truly successful people don’t just have a why. They are intimately familiar with the reasons, the driving forces, behind their work. They are moved to emotion and to action when they try to explain it to someone.
If that’s not you, then maybe it should be.
As for me, I’ve recently realized that, if I’m moving forward with writing – this blog, the book that I’m 30% finished or anything else – I need to get really clear about my why.
I’ve been pretty clear for a long time. But, your why isn’t static. Sometimes you will have to change your method to get to your goal. If you aren’t tossing your reasons to move forward around in your head regularly, they will get out of date.
The next week, for me, will be Why Week.
And, I would like to invite you to join me. Make this the week you get extremely clear about your why.
In order to do that, you need to, first, get clear on what exactly is a why.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a lot of time asking what you’re supposed to be doing with your life. The why comes after the what, doesn’t it?
Not so much.
Your reason for doing anything more than what’s easy has to come first. If not, I’m sure there is a comfy cubicle somewhere that already has your butt print molded into the chair.
If you want to move to your ‘real’ life, let’s start by looking at why a little closer.
3 Things that your why is not
1. Your why is not your dream.
If you’ve dreamt of making writing your career, as I have, for example, that is not your why.
What will success as a writer bring you? What will being able to write for a living feel like? Those are your why.
To use a mountain climbing analogy, your dream to climb Mount Everest is not it. The feeling of accomplishment you’ll get from ascending to the summit; that is your why.
2. Your why is not what someone else wants for you.
If you’re young and your parents have instilled a belief in a certain career or level of education in you from a young age, that is likely not your dream and it’s definitely not your why.
I’m all for fulfilling familial duty and making parents proud, but if your only answer to ‘What makes success at ______ appealing?’ is about making someone else proud, you need to dig deeper.
3. Your why is not negative.
This is a big one.
- To never end up living in a cardboard box
- To avoid that brain dead cubicle stare that means I live each day just to get to the next boring, meaningless day
- So that I never have to face my old art school friends with a career as a promotion painter for local gas station windows
These are not why‘s.
If your why starts with the words avoid or never, it’s a dread. A dread can be a clue to your why but it’s not a substitute.
There is a plus side, if this is you. It means that you clearly have a why but you haven’t put your finger on it yet. Keep looking!
3 Things that your why is
While putting much effort into finding my own why, I found a surefire way to know if I had drilled down enough to get past the goals and dreams; to the meat of my reason for doing anything challenging.
Here it is:
You can answer the question: “Why would you want to do that?” about your goals or about your dreams but you cannot answer it about your why.
In fact, asking “Why?” about your why leaves the asker sounding more than a little dense.
Let me give you an example:
Your cubicle neighbour, Nosy Parker, pokes his head over the divider and says, “I hear you want to climb Mt. Everest. Now, why would you want to do that?”
(He is asking about the ‘why’ behind your dream, so you can answer him.)
“I want to climb Mt. Everest for the feeling of accomplishment I will get from having worked hard and to give my kids/the world proof that they can do great things, too,” you reply.
“But why would you want to fee accomplished and be an example of excellence to others?”, Nosy Parker, asks. As he talks, you can almost see his purpose dry up and blow away on a gentle breeze, without him even noticing.
(Here, he is asking about the ‘why’ behind your why as if those are not reasons on their own. He sounds like a dufus.)
Everyone has something to contribute to the world.
Often (usually, even?), professionally, we land in places where we can never really contribute all that we have to give.
We all know the person who works in accounting and makes stunning architectural marvels out of cake for their co-workers birthdays, wishing they could trade in their day job for full time culinary arts.
Personally, I was sickened the last time I wrote a resume for the purpose of landing an office job. (Some people like offices. I only like my office.)
I was sickened by my own skills.
How have I gotten so good at doing things I hate to do?
If you’ve landed in a profession where you aren’t meant to stay, take heart. You were not given your specific dreams to torture you. You are meant to accomplish them.
Important side note that I found hard to learn but very worthwhile:
My wonderful man has landed, and stayed, for some thirteen years, in a construction job.
He is a gifted actor and craftsman of gorgeous metalwork. I know how this can weigh on a person. We have learned to be grateful for the groceries and comfortable home that his job provides, while he chases his why and unpacks his purpose.
Please be grateful for what you have. It’s nearly impossible to move upwards with an ungrateful attitude.
Back to your contribution.
Know that you’re here to accomplish something that shows you for the masterful creation that you are.
If you boil it right down, what are you here for?
The cake lady in accounting might say that she is here to make edible masterpieces that bring a sense of wonder and joy to their recipients.
I say that I’m here to give people the words and thoughts to create upward movement in the direction they feel called to go. I want to help people fulfill their God-given purpose.
Your why is going to be your greatest contribution to others.
Your why is your motivation towards better things.
Your reason for changing is constant even if the way you go about getting from A to B changes during your travels.
You may have to work full time as a teacher and write your bestsellers through the night, like Stephen King did. The why was getting those stories out. The desire to do that motivated the choice to stay up late and write.
(Though, I have no idea how even one got finished. I can’t come out from under the covers long enough to read a scary book, much less write one.)
Your why is bare bones. It’s what you want the results of your life to be; your legacy.
- I want the freedom to take the vacation of my choice
- I want to be able to meet the financial challenges of kids with braces (or whatever may come)
- I want to help my spouse change from a career of drudgery to one that turns him on like a beacon
Personally, I know that I have words to share that can help people see their lives get better. But, altruism isn’t enough.
I think I need to share that again:
Altruism isn’t enough.
Just because I want to create a great example for my kids isn’t enough to keep me moving, on any given day. My heart may be for helping people in the big picture.
But I live in small, daily chunks. And so do you.
We need personal pay offs that create daily motivation. You need to know your own pay offs; the reminders of the results that will come from your daily effort that will keep you motivated for the big picture impact.
(Time with family and money to create choice are good examples of the pay offs to look forward to.)
Your why is what motivates you to do a little bit more, everyday; to move yourself up, up, up, gradually to a new and bigger place than you were yesterday.
And, gradually doesn’t mean slowly. It means you have to take each step, one at a time to get to the top of the staircase.
If you decided that you’d rather watch TV than take your one step for the day, then you’re on day further from achieving the feeling that is your why.
This leads me to…
You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks. – Winston Churchill
Similarly, you will never reach your destination if you run off after every shiny object you see.
Your why has to be the focal point of your effort in life. It’s the service to the world that you were created to provide.
It’s what you’re to be running towards. This is why your why isn’t negative, by the way. You can’t run towards something if you’re focused on running scared from something.
Here is funny visual to remind you how running towards something is more effective than running away from something.
If you have ever fed chickens, you know that a chicken on a mission has a laser focus and will stick their neck out as far as they can while they bee line it towards their goal.
This guy, on the other hand, well, if you choose to be this guy, all you will accomplish is panic and feather loss.
If ever we emulate a chicken, best be a chicken on a mission.
Regardless of what your – and my – why is:
- It is not the same as your dream,
- It is not a dread and,
- It is not someone else’s. It’s yours.
If you are going to take action on your why, you’re going to have to:
- Let it move you to some small action everyday,
- Let it take you outside yourself, until you’re driven to accomplish it for something bigger than your own satisfaction,
- Let it keep you laser focused on achieving the result that it offers, never being drawn off by hurdles or shiny objects.
Lastly, if you really want something that will move you when you feel immovable, you’ve got to let it make you cry.
Some of you are like me and want to give their why the attention it requires, but are thinking:
Cry? What are the steps I take to accomplish that?
For us task oriented people, I’ve included some action suggestions. These are not new, rocket-science type things. They are normal, self-discovery tools.
Likely you’ve tried to turn some of these techniques into habits in the past. If you’ve already tried these things, please try them again, at least just for this week.
No long term commitment, just a why week of your own. If you do any of these things everyday for a week, you will definitely gain clarity, at the least.
3 Tools for Why Week:
Use it to write out your dreams and then ask yourself why you want those things.
Remember, you can answer why? to a dream but not to a why.
Do this everyday for a week. I guarantee you will feel like turning into a big, green rage monster if you don’t find a way to move towards the contribution that is yours to make.
Check out my Quote Gallery to get you started.
Or simply Google ‘Motivational Quotes’, ‘Inspirational Quotes’ or any adjective attached to the word ‘Quotes’ that you feel might move you.
3. Intelligent Input
The people who know you best may be your most effective tools, (please don’t tell them I called them that), providing invaluable insight into what we are meant to accomplish.
Sometimes, your loved ones know you better than you know yourself. Just be sure to consult someone trustworthy, who will not shoot you down.
You don’t need anything special to decide to get clear on your why.
I am traveling light on this journey into self.
The few simple tools and a commitment of at least a few minutes a day to use those tools is all it takes. If you truly want to accomplish your goals – not just talk about them for another year – I invite you to get serious about finding your why.
Dig until you find your why along with me. And let me know how it goes.
There is nothing I love more than someone who knows what they’re here for.