Finding Your Big Why
Over my coaching career, I’ve had countless conversations about this topic and I’ve developed a few methods that I have used to help people realize their Big Why. After you read this article and work through the guide that we’ve created, I think that you’ll have a real sense of your Big Why.
One of the things I want you to understand is that the Big Why is often not a destination, it’s much more of a path or a direction. If you’re still struggling with it, if it’s still something that you feel like isn’t quite right, I ask you to consider if it really is that you don’t know what your Big Why… Or if it’s that you’re afraid your Why is so big that you look at the person you would have to grow into to in order to realize it and does it just feel like a mountain that you may not be able to climb?
The purpose of the Big Why is to mobilize energy and focus. It’s to help us to show up every day and do our best work.
The first thing that I want you to understand is that oftentimes we misunderstand or misinterpret the purpose of the Big Why. The purpose of the Big Why is to mobilize energy and focus. It’s to help us to show up every day and do our best work. Another thing I want you to understand is that for some of us, our Big Why is not something that we are awakened to. If you don’t know your Big Why, one of my favorite questions is, how would you show up and behave if you did know your Why? And what if you just showed up and behaved that way every day and over time you were able to build or uncover what that Why is for you? There isn’t always this “piano of purpose” that’s going to fall on you. Sometimes it’s something you have to build and condition in yourself.
Let’s get into the methods and the real tangible things that you can focus on and do to unpack this for yourself.
The first method is simply asking yourself three questions. Number one, who in the world do you want to help most? Number two, what problem do you want to help them solve? Number three, what do you feel when you help those people solve that problem? Wherever you do your best thinking I would invite you to take those questions and sit down and truly do your absolute best to answer them.
Sometimes we use the 3 Questions, but it doesn’t give us the insight we’re looking for, which is fine, those are big questions and there’s no absolute method for discovering your motivations. What we can typically do in this instance is reverse engineer the problem by instead asking yourself, what are all the things that you don’t want in your life? What would you take out of your life if you could? Keep asking yourself what you don’t want until you’ve exhausted all options or you start to repeat yourself. Then you look at each dislike and invert them by asking yourself what its opposite is.
What Pisses Me Off?
Anger is a symptom of passion. What would you take out of your life if you could?
What’s funny is oftentimes if you ask people what it is that they want, it’s too big of a question. They’re not able to answer it. But many can just rattle their dislikes right off. What is it that gets you riled up? This version of the exercise is very interesting because anger is a symptom of passion. If you care enough to get angry, then you obviously care a lot. If necessary, apply the Three Questions to what you discover here to help define a problem needing to be solved and who would benefit from that solution. Sometimes following the bread crumbs down to what triggers you then leads into the question of why it hurts you and why it matters so much and that will help you to unpack that Why.
The Inner Circle
If none of the above are helping you discover your Why, and at this point, you simply don’t have the clarity and purpose you’re looking for, then this last technique is what I would urge you to consider. Identify the five people that matter most to you, five people in your inner circle that really matter most to you, and take the time to discover what their Why’s are. Now, as obvious as it may seem, I would encourage you to not include small children in this list because they may not have a Why’s that are as practical as you need to find success with this. Now, what would happen if, for the next year or two, you focused on how to help them realize their Why? What if by helping other people unpack their Why and achieve their goals, you discover what your one Why is?
The Bucket List
What are all the places that you want to visit, all the things you want to have, and the experiences you want to enjoy before you ultimately kick the bucket? I encourage you to make a list numbered one to fifty and list as many things as you can possibly can. I want you to understand that is not necessarily about checking off the boxes, although that’s really fun, the question is what is the pattern of things that show up on my bucket list? Why is it that I want all of this and what is the significance of the things that I put on my bucket list? And again, what that will start to uncover is your value system and the beliefs that you hold to be true that will ultimately lead you to a life of fulfillment.
Time Limit It
One thing I want you to understand is that you know you don’t have to write a Why that lasts for the rest of your life. In fact, some of us just have a fear of making a mistake and thinking these Why’s are set in stone. Don’t imagine it’s that way. Put a time limit on it. What’s your Why for the next 90 days? For the next 30 days? For the next week? Don’t let this feel too big or too heavy. Again, the purpose of the Why is to mobilize energy so that you show up every day at your absolute best.
I never leave home without my handy MREA book, and on page 75 which is the section about thinking powered by the Big Why, Gary has this blurb that’s probably my favorite paragraph in the entire book. Here’s what it says:
So think about that for a second, because one thing that we get caught up in is Big Why’s and how to achieve instead of how to become. At the end of the day, it’s not what you get that’s going to make you happy, it’s who you become in the pursuit of those things. One of my favorite questions to ask people in a business context is, do you work for money or do you work for personal development? Do you work to get or do you work to become?
I trust that this will be a powerful exercise for you. Use our worksheet, which chunks these ideas down and will help guide you through this process. Thank you for reading and make it a great day!