Recently I came across an article written by Terri Flint that challenged the reader to imagine that a 60 Minutes video crew was invited to document your life for a week and would air the results on TV at the end of the week. It would highlight those things most important to you, determined only by how you spend your time, energy and money that particular week. How would you fare? How quickly would you jump on board for this type of opportunity? Your emotional response to even the thought of this type of situation will help you determine how well you are living your “why”.
So, why do you do what you do every single day? There has to be a driving force to all that we do. German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche said, “He who has a why can endure any how.” Isn’t it easy to get caught up in the “how” of each day? From work to hustling kids to where they need to be, from paying bills to making dinner--we spend far too much time on how we go about our day and rarely do we pause to think of why. Knowing your why will be the difference between merely surviving and actually enjoying life.
In his book, “Start With Why”, author Simon Sinek contrasts how Apple focuses on the “why” while their competition focuses on the how and what. For example, when Apple took the music industry by storm with their iPod and iTunes, their competition was still selling their devices by telling their customers how many megabytes of storage they came with. Apple, on the other hand simply advertized “1,000 songs in your pocket”. Everyone understands that concept, even if they don’t understand the how or what behind a music player.
If you haven’t quite figured out your why, Forbes contributor, Margie Warrell, suggests asking yourself four questions:
- What makes you come alive? The Latin meaning of the word “inspire” literally means “to breathe life into.” Connect to something greater than yourself through finding what you are truly passionate about. Disney’s recent blockbuster, Moana, is about a girl who is drawn to explore the open ocean, so much so that it ignited her to embark on a quest to help her village. Although fictional, it begs the question--what ignites that fire within your own soul?
“Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive, then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Howard Thurmon
- What are your innate strengths? Is there something you are naturally good at or have a knack for? Perhaps you have studied and practiced countless hours on an instrument and have developed the gift of music. Often knowing your talent will help you understand more why you do what you do.
“This is how many people become artists, musicians, writers, computer programmers, record-holding athletes, scientists... by spending time alone practicing what they love.” - Meg Cabot
- Where do you add the greatest value? Taking into consideration your innate strengths, are you placed in a position where you will be of most help to solve problems, in your workplace, industry, etc? You might want to ask yourself what problems you enjoy tackling. This will most likely show you what your natural strengths are, then use your “gift” to help boost the lives of those around you.
“Figure out what you're good at and start helping other people with it; give it away. Pay it forward. Karma sort of works because people are very consistent. On a long enough timescale, you will attract what you project.” - Naval Ravikant
- How will you measure your life? Where is your heart and where are your thoughts most of your day? At the end of this life, what will you look back and value the most? Will it be the 6-digit salary or the Montana fishing trip with your sons? Live with purpose.Yes take risks, but don’t sacrifice what matters most.
“Just as a boat under power can handle any size wave if perpendicular to it, when you’re powered by a clear purpose, there is little you cannot do.” - Margie Warrell
If you already know and understand your why, then how is it we seem to lose sight of it sometimes? How do we get off-course so easily? I have a thought, but you might not like it. We live in a world where anyone can create an online, staged snapshot of their life, for the entire world wide web to see, whether it be a truthful interpretation or not. Log into any social media platform and you’ll get sucked into the abyss of distracted deception.
Don’t we all have that “friend” online? You know the one. The one who seems to have the perfect life, perfect job, perfect partner, perfect family, living life one day climbing the Swiss Alps, the next sipping daiquiris on the beaches of Bora Bora. Isn’t it easy to see the dream life of others and hitchhike onto their priorities leaving our own to fend for themselves? Simply put, it is easy to forget what matters most to us when we are bombarded with images and public personas of others. Don’t lose sight of your own.
So how do we refocus our efforts back to living our why? Greg McKeown wrote a book entitled Essentialism, wherein he explains how to discern between external noise and your own internal voice. Incorporate ways into your day that will help remind you of your purpose. Maybe it is reminder notes placed where you will be sure to see your purpose several times a day. Maybe you start making a list of things you will say no to, because after all, when you say yes to something, you are essentially saying no to something else. Maybe it’s setting aside specific times for emails and/or social media everyday--and sticking to it!
However you decide to refocus to living your why will be personal to you. Don’t hijack those things that should be most important.
Tell Us: If you knew that you were going to die in one year, what would you do today, so people will remember you as someone who lived life fully?