“The two most important days of your life are: the day you were born, and the day you find out why.”–Mark Twain
Here you are, spinning your wheels, spending your energy, doing so much. Yet what you are doing isn’t really motivating you. It’s all about doing something, anything, isn’t that what gets us out of being stuck in a rut, in finding our purpose, our passion, our best self? Usually that just leaves us exhausted and still feeling stuck. Read on to find out what essential first question you need to ask and answer, to align your energy and your actions with your purpose and passion.
The wind howled through the courtyard outside the bedroom window. As it picked up speed, it bent the redwoods, causing the trees to crack. And yet…
In the background, I heard a group of chickadee birds signing. Through the dark bedroom curtains a hint of sunlight appeared. In that moment, nature put up the “OPEN” sign on Saturday morning.
It was 5:32AM. On a Saturday.
Why get up?
I admit that pulling the covers off and jumping in the shower was not my first, second, or even 10th thought (you did read the part about it being 5:32AM, right?). Laying in bed, I found myself in the midst of a struggle. My body screamed for rest, notifying me that I was not running on full cylinders.
While my physical body wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep, my inner best self was fully awake. I connected with the chickadees, who weren’t hiding or seeking protection from the fierce howling winds. In fact, in spite of the wind, the birds were chirping beautiful, inspiring, uplifting melodies. My best self also connected with the remnants of my dreams, dreams that left me feeling full of inner sunlight.
I recognized, within that battle of physical need versus emotional want, that my reason for getting up had nothing to do with what I would do once awake, or how I would do it. Because honestly I really how no clue as to what I would do, or how to go about doing it. What got me up was the power of my “why”: because I deeply, honestly, wanted to write and create and experience the JOY of trying something new and daring.
Paraphrasing a Sylvia Plath quote: I do what I do not for earthly success but because there is a voice within me that will not be still.
What you do won’t be as fulfilling as why you do it
Accomplishments, whether physically tangible or abstract, provide us with purpose. Writing 100 pages in 5 days (kudos if you do this AND I can’t wait to hear the extremely powerful “why” behind this!), painting a bedroom over a weekend, acquiring a Master’s degree while working a regular 40-hour+ job are but a small sampling of what can motivate us.
But if you took a step back and looked at why you started tasks – and more importantly STUCK with them through to accomplishments – you’ll see there was an important, powerful WHY in that equation. Painting the bedroom is more than just completing a scene but also creating a memorable experience in a beautiful, warm, inviting room. Acquiring a Master’s degree opens up job opportunities and income but those reasons pale in comparison with wanting to show your daughter that the possibilities of her own reach are unlimited.
What you did, how you did it, where and when it was done – those are all semantics. Because when you found yourself sweating up a storm and having to paint the yet 3rd layer of paint in the bedroom, it wasn’t what you were doing that motivated you to keep going, or figuring out how to do it smarter and more efficient. What got you moving was the power of your identified why: seeing your relative, in the comfort of this room, sharing a space that you created with them in mind.
The same “power of why” propels you to continually push on after spending weekends away from your family stuck in a classroom or staying up late to finish school assignments so that you could earn your Master’s degree. Seeing pride on your daughter’s eyes, or hearing your daughter speak about a future that she not just dreams of achieving but knows that she will, that WHY strikes deep in one’s heart, takes hold, and provides the fuel for the “what, how, when, and where.”[bctt tweet="What you do won't be as fulfilling as why you do it."]
The winner between “why” and excuses?
It was cold outside – sweater weather in May, in California! It was too early to go out. I didn't really need more succulents. Why purchase plants that would literally freeze the following winter?
All rational thoughts, all perfectly good excuses. But since I have been implement more and more the question of why, after all those excuses flashed up on the movie screen in my brain, another, bolder, more powerful statement crossed my mind.
"Every evening when you come home from work, Pia, this beautiful, lush, green-filled porch will welcome you and greet you, and upon seeing the serenity and vibrancy of this front porch, everything and anything that happened during the day will be left outside, allowing for balance in your life and time being present with those you love."
BOOM! Those words created such a breath-taking mental picture that I didn’t even allow time for another breath. I was out the door, bundled up like it was Antarctica, heading towards the downtown nursery. Now that’s the power of why in action!
Identifying the “why” immediately negates any excuses that your rational, perhaps a bit fearful, mind can come up with. Whatever the “why” is, that statement deems all excuses powerless from holding you up, holding you back, or holding you down.
The power of identifying your why is even more crucial, and more impactful, when the excuses unmask true hurdles, hurdles that measure the height of a mountain. The excuses work in our brains as simple ways to say NO! Identifying the why reconfigures our brains to look for ways to say YES! - particularly when the hurdles are big, challenging, and even a little overwhelming.
The power of identifying your “why” results in seeing solutions versus unsolvable problems. And that’s where your "best you" comes out to play, enjoy, propels you to take 1 step, then another and another towards you own-defined meaning of success and happiness.
Why use “why”?
Businesses use the power of identifying why to figure out why customers shop and stay with them, or why there is a need for their product or service. The power of business answering WHY helps businesses catapult their sales goals and create products that are essential and unique. Google “Power of Why” and the first page of results are all business books or articles written on that exact topic.
That same success is apparent in the lives of individuals. These are individuals who quickly grasp the “why” for their lives and propel forward. They are individuals who struggle to grasp their "why," perhaps because it was hidden by so many other expectations or fears, and yet take the plunge in peeling back old experiences, fear, lack of esteem, and began to piece together their own unique and deeply personal “why.”
Consistently and openly asking and answering why, for minutia details and grand life events and anything in between, allows your brain AND your inner best self to connect, be on the same page AND propels you forward immediately. Continuously reminding yourself of the “why” is like having an electric car charging up every second; it is concordant with blood flowing through your veins, feeding all your body cells and organs. (Check out this post to see how your best self is already propelling you forward.)
How to grasp the power of identifying your why
Asking yourself “why” is a vital tool to identifying what drives and fuels your passions. It is a tool that can instantly propel you forward in embracing your true passion or removing obstacles that are impeding your true success.
Are you ready and willing, right now, to let your "best you" out of the box? Are you ready to grab hold of the power of identifying your why? Follow the 4 steps outlined below to propel yourself forward:
- Start asking yourself why.
Don’t ask others why you should do something - your “why” will be as unique as your fingerprint, and to move forward you’ve got to find it, own it, and live it yourself.
[bctt tweet="Don't ask others why you should do something. You've got to identify your own why."]
- Ask yourself these questions
When doing any action, or are in midst of making a decision, ask
- Why do I want this?
- Why do I need this?
Write your answers down, boil them down to the most essential and impactful words for you. Say those statements out loud, repeat them to yourself as you are driving around or looking at yourself in the mirror as you walk out the door. Tattoo those statements on your heart, via your eyes and your voice.
Some why’s are crystal clear. Others take some rearranging of furniture and storage boxes to find. (Think of an attic that you use to store things in: your why was put up there in a box a while back and it’s going to take some effort to re-find and wipe the dust off.) Keep digging, keep pulling aside the cobwebs, and give yourself the freedom of time to find the why. It’s better to continue searching than to give up and loose it perhaps forever.
If the excuse wins, look again at your why and go deeper. When you recite the “why” to yourself, it should be as compelling as your need to breathe. For example, I could say that I want to exercise to look attractive to my husband. Sure, that’s honest but it can be beaten by some excuses. In looking again, I can honestly say that I want to exercise because I love my spouse and I want to be healthy and share a long life with him. Tell me of any excuse that could beat that! My love for my partner is as important to me as knowing my heart will continue to beat.
It all leads up to the BIG why
“Clarify your purpose. What is the why behind everything you do? When we know this in life or design it is very empowering and the path is clear.” – Jack Canfield
Like any tool, asking "why" needs to be repetitively used, practiced, honed. Start practicing with small tasks, like “why do I make my morning coffee/tea in this manner?” This isn’t about judgement (I’m not saying that you look for inefficiencies or ways to judge yourself). This is about lifting up a mirror and seeing yourself reflected back.
Because let’s be honest – it may have been a long time since you’ve asked yourself why you are doing something. Your life may be filled with what others expect you to do, how others expect you to feel, look, behave. Life can be on autopilot for so long that we loose touch with our own selves, our own thoughts, our own whys. (I’ve been there at least 3 times in my own life, and it took dramatic instances in my life to look in the mirror and say “wow, is that really me – I don’t recognize myself!”)
As you practice asking why of the little things (and finding out that you enjoy the quiet pleasure of smelling the tea leaves out of the open canister, or listening for just the perfect grind noise of coffee beans), your brain and your best self will begin to stretch those muscles. Asking why of bigger things will become easier. Eventually, you’ll have practiced and worked out your “why” muscle enough to tackle on the BIG why: your passion, your purpose, your why now.
Asking why may seem silly at first, or hard. Let me say one thing: you are here because you can sense (physically and visually) your greatness awaiting. You are here because you decided to no longer just sit on the verge, doing nothing more than looking at your greatness way out there beyond. You’ve already made the decision to step off the verge and move forward.
With your “best you” now running towards you, would you let something silly or hard stop you from embracing her with open arms? I say let’s go! [bctt tweet="Start practicing your “why” muscle today."]
If you need a bit more encouragement, check out Grind to Greatness' podcast, rightfully titled "Do you know where you're going? Defining what you want and why you want it." Mary Hodges and Ashley Kane do a fantastic job in breaking down why you need to keep asking why, going deeper beyond your first answer and the need to arrive at a "why" that leaves you crying breathlessly.
What is the first “why” question you can ask yourself today, so that you can start saying hello to your best self and getting to know her more in-depth? Jot them down in the comments below.
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