Sometimes life can become confusing if you haven't answered the question, "what's your why?".
For example, how are you feeling in your career, relationships, or life in general? Not sure? So, so? It may be time to find your why to bring more intention and focus to your life.
Finding your why is a journey of self-discovery, focusing on uncovering the underlying purpose that drives you to take action.
By being honest with yourself, you can uncover your true motivations and clarify what makes your life meaningful.
This article will cover what it means to find your why and also provide you with actionable steps you can take today to answer the question, “what’s my why?”
But first, let's break down what having a "why" really means.
What is a “why”?
Think of your why as a personal mission statement.
It is the framework you use to make decisions in every area of your life. It keeps you going when you’re tired and ready to quit. And it's the essence of how you want your life to feel.
This may look like a single word, such as “integrity,” “service,” or “create.” Or, it may be a more expansive phrase such as “spread joy and laughter to everyone I meet” or “equitable access to health and fitness resources.”
Why is it important to find your why?
When you have the answer to "what is my why", whatever that may be, it helps you to create a life that fulfills you day in and day out.
I know this sounds lofty and maybe unnecessary. After all, you’re not a business; you’re simply trying to find a more enjoyable approach to life.
However, if you find out what's most important to you, you'll identify (and free yourself from) obligations that don’t align with your values and goals.
As a result, it becomes easier to form new habits, launch creative ventures, save money, date, etc.
And ultimately, when your why becomes innate to your every action, it is easier to contribute to your community to help others flourish in their own whys.
5 Actionable steps to get clear on what’s your why
“Finding your why” may seem impossible. Like trying to answer, “which came first, "the chicken or the egg?” but you already have all the answers you need.
You just need to take some time to put your ideas and goals in order. These 5 steps will help you do just that.
Tip: Be kind and patient with yourself through this process, and listen. Think of it like you’re dating yourself. The nicer a date is to you, the more likely you'll open up.
1. Interview yourself
Start by asking yourself “why” every time you’re making a decision, an unexpected feeling comes up, or you want to buy something. You’ll start to notice a trend.
See if you can distill the answers down into core values, which will often point you toward your purpose or, at a minimum, highlight what’s most important to you.
For example, my core money values are aesthetics, health and well-being, and education.
Knowing these, I can better manage my finances because I can ask “why” with every purchase or social event I’m considering. And if it doesn’t align with one of those three ideals, I don’t buy into it.
The result? A life filled with items and experiences that fill me up, rather than a life filled with “stuff.”
2. Reflect on your current and past jobs
If you’re hoping to get clear on an aligned career path, start reviewing where you are today.
For example, ask yourself:
- What do I like about this job? And why?
- What don’t I like about this job? And why?
- What skills do I use in my day-to-day work?
- What skills have I learned since starting this opportunity?
You may be able to use these skills to help with areas of your life where you experience dissatisfaction.
Perhaps your why is to use the skills you learned in your current (and prior) positions to help others address the same problems as you have.
3. Ask your friends and family
This activity to help you find your why requires you to get vulnerable with your friends and family, not just with yourself.
Ask the five people whose opinions you respect the most what activities make you light up. What conversations cause you to go on and on like a Shakespearean monologue?
You may be surprised with the answers you receive, as often we’re so caught up in our heads, worrying what others will think that we aren’t aware of what we think, what we genuinely enjoy, and what we’re quasi-experts in.
4. Reflect on your interests as a kid
Your hobbies and interests as a kid are wonderful indicators of your why as an adult. They show you what you were innately drawn to before societal expectations and standards steered you in a different direction.
So if you can, ask your parents or other caretakers what you were most absorbed in as a kid.
Maybe you were obsessed with dinosaurs but ultimately didn’t get a degree in archeology because someone suggested it’s not a lucrative career path. Or you wanted to be an astronaut but were told that’s an unreasonable dream.
What could you do today to follow those same passions?
Write a book? Film a documentary? Work at a museum?
Understanding what is interesting to you can help you answer, "what is my why?"
5. Find inspiration
Speaking of books, documentaries, and also museums, one of the best ways to find your why is to peruse various topics across a range of mediums. And see what sparks your interest.
For instance, what topics do you keep going back to? What do you share the most with others?
These will hint at the answer to the "what's your why" question.
I found my why. Now what?
Now that you’ve identified your "why," it’s time to create an action plan to keep yourself accountable as you work towards realizing your goals.
To do so, you'll want to set up periodic dates (daily, monthly, and annually) with yourself to reflect on where you are, in addition to where you've been and where you're going.
Create daily intentions
To build your accountability plan, make a list of easy ways to incorporate your why into everyday life.
For example, if your why is “service,” maybe you make sure to hold the door open for at least one person every day, help your mom, roommates, or spouse with the dishes without being asked, or simply ask a co-worker, “how can I help?”
Now remind yourself of these intentions by writing them down every day during your morning routine.
Put it on a post-it note and stick the note to your bathroom mirror. Make it your home screen on your phone. Or add it to your desktop or also your laptop.
Schedule monthly check-ups
It isn't difficult to get caught up in the daily grind and forget what we are working towards.
So set aside time each month for a self-reflection session. Take some time to really think about your answers and also write them down.
This will help you see patterns and areas you need to focus on. Reviewing your previous self-reflection sessions to see how far you've come can also be useful.
Journal through the following prompts:
- What did I learn about myself this month?
- Did I act in alignment with my why? How?
- What can I work on in the upcoming month to get back to or stay on the right track?
- What do I need to detox or delegate?
You can also check out our list of more in-depth list of journal prompts to expand on this exercise.
Plan annual reviews
Return to this exercise every year, as your “why” may change as you grow and step into your purpose. What motivated you five years ago might not be what motivates you today. And that's OK!
But if your "what is my why" answer changes without you realizing it, you may find that your commitment dwindles. This is why, to stay focused, it's important to take a beat and re-interview yourself every year.
- What did you accomplish over the past year? This will help you to see how far you have come and how your why has enabled you to succeed.
- Did these accomplishments feel joyful and exciting, or did you find yourself becoming neutral as time went on? If the joy ebbed, your why may have shifted.
- What would you like to achieve in the coming year? Do these goals align with your why, or are they arising from ego?
- Finally, take a look at your overall life goal. How does your why fit into this bigger picture? Is it still serving you well?
Find your why to enjoy a more fulfilling life!
I hope these steps to finding your why "help" you as you work on finding your truth.
But if you need an extra sprinkle of inspiration, here’s my why: “To help women cultivate a path to financial freedom, which enables them to leave behind jobs or careers that no longer serve them, and to find a livelihood that lights their soul on fire."