“I realized my passion was not in the ‘what’ I was doing…It was in the ‘why’”—Lara Hodgson
“I don’t know where or how to start. It’s been so long since I’ve actually asked myself this why question that I don’t even know if I know how to ask it, or worse yet, I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer it.” So what can you do when you don’t know where to start on identifying your why, much less your big why?
I hear you. As women, it’s a slippery slope on helping others, encouraging others, looking for worth and value and definition by how we are reflected by others. I’ve been there, not once, not twice, but at least three times in my life.
It’s like walking by the mirror, brushing your hair but not really seeing your face or even acknowledging your existence. Knowing that you have a body underneath your head but not really being in tune with it. That’s how we treat our outside selves – and that is also how we treat our inner best self too. After neglecting our best self, it’s hard to hear its voice, to connect and truly hear our own needs and passions be said aloud.
We find ourselves at a point in life where the outer reflections of our worth and praise are less and less – kids are moving on, hair and skin is looking a little less glowing, and career is stalling just a bit or just on autopilot. None of this is exactly catastrophic at this point, but there is enough internal conflict going on within us that our best self is using this opportunity to sneak through that crack and get us to notice her.
However, her voice is a little squeaky – I mean, she hasn’t really spoken in years. So how do we get her to actually talk? And not just talk – but shout! (Pep talk inserted here: this best self, hidden in storage inside you…she’s a powerful one. To ask her to just talk would be like asking God to just pour you a cup of coffee, when He has built the whole universe! Why would you want to put a cap on that power and just let her out with polite society? Let’s get that best self to shout and redraft your whole freaking universe!)
Let’s start with a reflection exercise
So here we go. Dedicate 15 minutes for yourself and step away from everything that could be a disturbance. (The more you do this exercise, the quicker you will get your final answer, but start with setting a timer for 15 minutes and intentionally give yourself this self-care time.)
Start by choosing a small, simple activity - something small. I’m not joking here – would you start running a marathon tomorrow if your last run was during 6th grade for the Presidential Physical Fitness Test? Don’t worry – these baby steps are going to rack up quickly and before you know it, your best self is going to be dragging you forward faster than you can shout “hi!” (Note that your best self is already existing within you.)
Look through your day, your routine, and pick something small. (Need some ideas? Check out this free worksheet for prompts.)
Maybe you picked brushing your teeth, or pouring a cup of water with lemon in the morning. Let’s get cozy and start.
• How do you do this activity?
• How do you feel while you are doing this activity?
• What do you get out of completing this activity?
• What do others get out of you completing this activity?
• Where do you do this activity?
• Whom do you do this activity with?
You can tell from these sets of questions that I haven’t gotten to “why” yet. We are setting the stage, giving your brain and your best self space to stretch out here – and providing you with prompts to get you in the mindset of seeing beyond just the activity, so that you can be on your way to identifying your purpose.
Once you’ve identified the answers to questions above (and you can use this worksheet as a writing space and as a visual aid – I need to “see” words to let them sink in), let’s go back and do another run through.
• How do you this activity → Why do you do it this way?
• How do you feel about this activity → Why do you feel this way?
• What do you get out completing this activity → Why is this important to you?
• What do others get out of you completing this activity → Why is this of value to them?
• Where do you do this activity → Why is this location freeing or limiting?
• Who do you do this activity with → Why is this necessary or of importance?
We got a little deeper here and we still have a bit more to go. Go back over your answers and circle/highlight/underscore any answers where you identified values. (I added some question prompts on this worksheet – along with plenty of space to write out your answers. Download it here.)
We are still in a cozy place, but that best part of you – she’s getting excited. So let’s give her a bit more space to come out and play.
Look over the values you identified and pick one that resonates with you deeply, right now. Let’s start going through these questions:
• How does this value play out in your daily life?
• What does this value motivate you to do in your daily life?
• When is this value most prevalent (under what situations or with what people is this value most displayed)?
• Where does this value come in most useful to you and provide the most gratification?
• Why is this value important to you?
Let’s wrap all this together. Looking back at the activity you picked to reflect on, take a run at answering these questions:
• How does the value you picked play out in this activity?
• Why do you do this activity?
The value of exercising your why muscle
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Nietzsche
The overall point of this exercise is to get your brain thinking about the true reasons why you act, do, talk, behave, etc., in the ways that you do. Some of the answers you come up with will highlight the need to reassess doing this activity at all, or the answers will display where you want to truly exert your energy, or help you prioritize where your focus is on a daily basis.
As an example, I’ll take my brushing my teeth in the morning routine. Now I’m a manual toothbrush kind of gal, and I’ve already admitted to my dentist that I floss occasionally. I purchase toothbrushes that are hard so that I can really scrub my teeth, and I’ve researched toothpastes to purchase the one that fits my needs. So on the surface, it looks like this is a chore that I kind of have to do. True – but I’ve looked for tools that help me with my teeth maintenance, so I identify that one of my values is efficiency (researching and establishing processes for activities that need to be done but aren’t exactly a priority for me.)
When I go a little deeper, I remember that my parents spend a good amount of money and time so that I could have braces when I was young. Before my braces, I hardly smiled because I was embarrassed about how my teeth looked. The act of efficiently brushing my teeth is also a demonstration of respect and appreciating for the effort of my parents, so gratitude is also a value that motivates me. I also can acknowledge that my parents wanted me to be confident in myself, to smile big and wide, and enjoy life and not be embarrassed or ashamed of who I was or how I looked.
What does that leave me with? I brush my teeth quickly and efficiently so that I can laugh with gusto and show myself confidently without hesitation.
I can take that value of self-appreciation and gratitude and begin to align it with other activities that I do throughout the day, along with my desire for efficiency.
And you thought that brushing your teeth was just a simple little task that needed to get done.
So what did you connect with? What did this exercise reveal? Moreover, what is the next activity you’ll reflect upon? (I've got activity prompts, along with expanded questions, on this free worksheet. Download it now.)
Photo Source: https://stocksnap.io/
I love reflecting on purposeful, thought-provoking life experiences and turning them into life purposes. I am a writer dedicated to sharing life-lessons to empower women to attain their best life by turning experiences into passion-driven action.
When I'm not studying life, I'm intentionally living it. I enjoy art (admiring it and creating it), nature, and I'm a beginner sewer in the attempt to sew my own unique clothes.
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