A Briefing on Finding Your Why

photo by Matt Pierce - Instagram @wake.up.matt

photo by Matt Pierce - Instagram @wake.up.matt


“He who has a why to live for, can bear almost any how.” 

— Friedrich Nietzsche


Who am I?

What type of person am you?

Do I have a passion?

These are a few questions that we may ourselves to help us find meaning in our lives. This is what gives life it’s zest, and gives us purpose.

Sometimes you can fight hard to make meaning of situations that should otherwise be left alone. It’s within our nature to try to piece things together. Especially when we don’t have control over something.

When it comes to the search for meaning, we are often told the following, well-intended advice:

“Follow your passion.”

It seems almost over played -like an easy set of words to fall back on when you are struggling to make sense of your life.

“Just find your passion. Do what you love, and you’ll be happy.”

But here is the something that I tend to believe true in most cases:

Passions and practicality shouldn’t get mixed up.

You can be passionate about eating pizza, drinking beer, and watching your Fantasy football lineup get pummelled every Sunday. But where is the practicality in that?

Or take becoming a fitness coach, personal trainer, or gym owner. We say to ourselves “I hate my job, but I really like working out. Maybe I’ll open my own gym,” but fail to realize that they will probably have to work more, not less. Most gyms shut down in their first two years - all started by some desire to follow their passion.

We often look to outliers as examples, stating things like, “So and so did, and look! They’re making a great income and living! They’re just doing what they love.”

What gets glossed over are the trials, and obstacles often standing in the way. The sweat equity, and discipline required day in, and day out. Then there is the mindset that you are doing it not for fame, but because it deeply does make you happy. Otherwise, we may become invested in our passions for the wrong reasons — money. We want to bridge that so called “work:life” balance by blending our passions with our jobs.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t follow your passion per se. It is about creating realistic expectations for yourself. I am a firm believer in taking massive leaps when the time is right. How do you know when you should go all in on your true passion?

Well, here’s the better advice, which I have pulled from two great voices on leadership, purpose, skill development, and career leverage:

We must build unique skills that will directly serve your purpose (Your Why), which you can then use to leverage into remarkable work/jobs that only you can do.

Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You. (And many other great gems which I refer to often.)

And Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why. (Also a wildly successful TED talk.)

Newport calls this the “craftsmen mindset,” viewing your work as a never ending craft, which your are working on everyday. The satisfaction comes from the process and everything it holds. The opportunities and triumphs, as well as the obstacles and trials. This reminds me a lot of the ‘growth mindset,’ termed and popularized by Carol Dweck.

However before this can take place, you need to know why it is you will be spending so much time on these skills. You need to fully understand and embody your purpose. You need to find out your Root Driving Force.

First, grab a pen and paper and write down your main objective. Be as specific as you can. For example, don’t say “I want to lose weight.” Instead, figure out exactly how much weight it is you want to lose, and in what time frame i.e., “I want to lose ten pounds of fat in the next three months.” These are called SMART goals, an acronym for: Specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely.

The next step of the process is to ask the question, “Why is that so meaningful to you?”

Try your best to take the time and think about why this goal is so damn important to you. Be concise. Try to summarize your why in one to two sentences.

Now, ask yourself why is that important?

And why does that matter?

Why is that?

Finally, why is that something your care so much about?

The final “why” is what we call our Root Driving Force(If you have a more concise and clever name, please let me know!)

This is such a powerful exercise because it gives us deeper meaning and a reason for wanting to change our behaviours. Make sure you remind yourself of this final “Why” often. I suggest writing it down on a sticky note, or paper and hanging it somewhere you can refer to often. Your bathroom mirror, or fridge work great.

Toyota first started using the “5 Whys” exercise when it sought to refine it’s production line, cut costs, and create the world’s most efficient car manufacturing. Whenever a problem would occur on the assembly line, workers were encouraged to ask “Why did this happen?” and so on until the truth came forward.

Well, as humans we aren’t built like an assembly lines or as cogs in a machine. But we do seek meaning and belonging. Hopefully this brief exposure to the craftsmen mindset, and finding your why will help you add a dose of practicality to your passions.

I will end off on the following story, which I am not sure of it’s true origination, but pulled from Sinek’s book, Start With Why.

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working.

He asked the first, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am laying bricks.”

He asked the second, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I am building a wall.”

As he approached the third, he heard him humming a tune as he worked, and asked, “What are you doing?” The man stood, looked up at the sky, and smiled, “I am building a cathedral!”


Thank you for reading my article. I hope you found it helpful or at least thought-provoking. If this post did help you, consider sharing it with someone you think it would help too.

Paul KeefeComment