Much is written, discussed and broadcast about the importance of understanding your ‘why’. The difference between those that have their ‘why’ and those that don’t is marked. That uplifting sense of purpose, that deep-meaning behind everything you do, that well of resilience in the face of anything that blocks your path.
We’re told it’s a no-brainer – it may feel overwhelming, but it seems the social evidence demands that we all should find our ‘why’ or at least be in pursuit of it.
I have wrestled with this for most of my career, particularly in my years as a coach and motivational speaker, roles that insist that I, of all people, should be able to clearly and absolutely articulate my ‘why’. I have attempted to help others and get into this ‘why-ness’ in chapters in each of my books and sense now is a good time to look at it all again. And in this note I’m urging you to contemplate and work on root aspects of your ‘Hallowed Why’
Through childhood the why question garnered new understanding and insight and demonstrated the “Proverb of the 5 Whys”; but as a teenager it became a question to defend and justify; then later through adulthood it became laden with inquisition, investigation and blame; and now, to me at least, it feels heavy and insatiable.
The power of the “why question” has lost its way.
I have noticed this particularly in coaching. “Why…” is one of the least effective lines of enquiry, in that so often it triggers defensive reaction and response. In pondering your true purpose and sitting with questions such as “Why am I here?”, “Why do I do this?”, “Why am I drawn to this or that?” you can predict that the ensuing thoughts will be largely unhelpful.
The proverbial magic of “The Five Whys” needs a 21st century upgrade to “The answer you seek lies on the Path of The Five Whats”.
The open, judgement-free expansiveness of a “what question” is massively more likely to begin and develop your discovery. Parts of the mind will be activated rather than reactivating old associations.
1. What has led me to this point in my life/career?
2. What has influenced my life/career?
3. What have I learnt from the challenges I have faced?
4. What has remained true/recurred throughout my life?
5. What patterns of behaviour and activity have led to my results?
An extra boost comes with starting from, accepting and exploring your ‘now’. This is where you are, your unarticulated and unconscious purpose has brought you to this point you are as near to your purpose (or ‘why’) as you could be.
1. What feels great about now?
2. What do I deeply enjoy spending my time on and thinking about?
3. What comes easily to me?
4. What do I really want?
5. What fulfils me?
Add in the ambiguity of ‘might’; ‘could’; ‘possibly’ to illicit further expectation-free creativity:
1. What might I be here to be and do?
2. What could my life be like?
3. What is possible for me this week/month/year?
4. What might my life/career be like if there were no barriers?
5. What could I change this week to make a difference?
Pick one from each of the three sections and sit with them, journal your answers, and see what shows up in your thinking. And stop asking WHY!
Good luck and keep it simple.