All organizations understand what they do and how they do it, but how many really understand why they do it?
The “what” is easy – it’s the products or services a business offers. The “how” is pretty easy too, since we know how we provide these products or services and what makes them unique.
But few can articulate the “why” of it all – why they do what they do, or what is the purpose or belief that drives them. It’s what inspires them to take action, and by extension, inspires others to take action.
Start With Why
The concept of finding “why” became popular after Simon Sinek’s famous Ted Talk, “Start With Why.”
In the talk and his best-selling book, Sinek explains how the world’s greatest leaders inspire themselves and others to take action or champion a cause.
They do it by defining their purpose – sharing their “why” – before discussing anything else. It’s how they captivate, sell, and lead.
How to Find Your “Why”
The “why” statement is the most effective way to articulate your why, or your purpose, to yourself and others.
It should be:
- – Simple and clear
- – Focused on others
- – Actionable
The “why” statement should encompass all of the qualities mentioned, all in a single sentence. You also want your statement to be evergreen, so it can apply to anything you do professionally or personally.
Essentially, your “why” statement is a statement of your value as much as why your social network loves you. Your professional and personal “whys” aren’t different. It’s not a separate concept, product, or service – it’s the underlying force that informs all that you do.
Once you have this statement, it can become a point of reference for all your future actions and decisions. You can set goals, measure your progress, and know when you’re on track.
Here are some exercises to help:
Identify What You Do to Make Others’ Lives Better
This applies both personally and professionally. Consider all the ways you work to make others’ lives better, whether it’s through your work, your business, or your personal endeavors. Solving a problem, volunteering, or donating all contribute to your sense of purpose.
Consider Your Values
Your values are your personal code of conduct. They’re the core beliefs that motivate your actions, behaviors, and interactions with others and the world.
Evaluate Your Motivations
Your motivations are the reasons you have for acting or behaving in a certain way. They’re what gets you excited to work or perform without external pressure from others. They satisfy you.
Think About Your Passions
Your passions extended beyond interests. They’re the things that push you and leave you wanting more. Bordering on obsessions, they’re the things you want to experience more, that you can’t stop thinking about.
These are a good starting point for the next step – self experimentation.
Conduct Self Experiments
There’s no better way to learn about yourself than with experimentation. You can develop your self-awareness, challenge your assumptions, and gain a deeper insight into yourself and your behavioral patterns.
Here are some ways to challenge yourself:
Track Your Thoughts
A daily writing habit is good for a lot of reasons, but among them is improved self-awareness. You don’t need to write everything down, but tracking your most prominent thoughts will reveal patterns that can show you your passions or your “why.”
Describe Your Perfect Workday
The goal of this exercise is to determine how you want to spend your time while working, not enjoying your family or your hobbies. You have to have some clarity of your “why,” even subconsciously, and this exercise can reveal it.
Be as detailed as possible and think about what hours you want to work, where you want to work, and how you want to work. Who are your coworkers? Are you working alone? What tasks would you be working on?
And do you ever imagine a day in which you wouldn’t want to go into work, if this was your day-to-day experience?
Once this is finished, ask yourself “why” again and see if it comes to mind.
Evaluate Your Career
Think about your career, going back as far as you wish, and consider:
- – The reason you sought or took the jobs you’ve had
- – The reasons you’ve left jobs
- – Your most rewarding accomplishments
- – The compliments you’ve received about your work skills or ethic
- – The times you felt most productive
- – Your favorite tasks to do
- – Your least favorite tasks to do
When you have this fleshed out, read it out loud and consider your “why” again.
Ask Your Trusted Friends or Family Members
Introspection and self-awareness aren’t always easy for people. We’d likely be surprised if we knew how others perceive us, vs. how we see ourselves.
You can use this to your advantage by asking your trusted friends and family members questions to help you find your purpose. Remember, don’t ask them what they think your “why” is – no one can answer that but you. Your trusted friends and family are only here to reveal the patterns you may not recognize yourself.
Ask what they think your strengths and weaknesses are, what seems to be your greatest passion, or what gets you most excited as far as your career or work goes. Only you can determine your “why,” but having some insights into the way others see you and your passion can go a long way toward helping you discover it.
With all these exercises, you have a lot more information about your own drive, motivators, and purpose than you did before. Dive a little deeper by asking these questions:
- – Is there a problem that always moves you to action?
- – Is there a certain type of work that would fulfill or satisfy you?
- – What gets you excited?
- – What aspect of your career has been consistently positive across all of your work experiences?
- – What work feels easy to you, but pushes you to seek out more information?
Drafting Your “Why”
You’ve done a lot of introspection and asking the tough questions, so now it’s time to put it to use.
Why do you do what you do?
To [contribution] so that [impact]
Sinek’s very own is:
“To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world.”
Discover Why You Do What You Do
Whether it’s an organizational “why” or an individual “why,” finding your why is a powerful tool to bring your aspirations and actions together to achieve your goals.
Need some help finding your why? Work with Allison directly!