7 Tips for Identifying Your Why

In Purpose by Randy Kassebaum


It might seem like a lofty goal to identify your why, but it might be easier than you think. Here are seven steps to take action and find a greater degree of personal and professional purpose:

1. Ask a lot of questions. Take a Socratic approach to your own life as it stands right now. Start with why you’re even hoping to identify your why in the first place. Ask what your core values are and identify the things that leave you wanting more about your life and the things that fulfill you. Even if you ask a million questions before you firmly identify a crystal clear why, the effort will have been a good use of your time in the long run.

2. Be kind to yourself. As you ask yourself questions about what your own personal value set is, answers will start to come into view. This leads to a greater degree of self-awareness that can sometimes lead to judgment. No matter what, try to be patient and understanding with yourself as you try to figure out a mission or why statement that works for you. The kinder you are to yourself, the more honest you can be—and the more honest you can be, the sooner you’ll find your why.

3. Connect with your career. You’ll need to find a way to calibrate your why with the need to earn an income. For some, this is simple—financial security might be their most fundamental why, meaning they’ll find it easy to take any job that promises them security. For others, their why might be something more idealistic, signaling meaningful work might be more important than a high-paying salary. In any case, given everybody spends so much of their time involved in their career, you might want your workday to serve your why, whatever it is.

4. Help others. Your why is a means to improving not only your own life, but also the lives of others. Ask yourself how your personal mission statement can help you be a better leader for your team, a more caring provider for your family, and a more engaged citizen in your community. Your why should be able to touch every corner of your life and, by extension, every person in it, too.

5. Recalibrate regularly. You might not know how to live out your why right from the start—for that matter, it’s easy to get distracted from your sense of purpose even if you’ve had a lot of practice. To live your best life, create daily habits to remind you of your why. Add an upbeat playlist or self-help podcast to your morning routine. Check in with yourself throughout the day about how much you feel calibrated with your stated why or central purpose.

6. Revise your why when necessary. Identifying your why comes with a disclaimer: Real life throws a lot of curveballs, meaning your why might change a lot over the years. Even if your why in the short term is not your why in the long term, it’s useful to keep track of all your whys throughout your life. You might notice you’re trending in a specific direction with these core values, making it easier to define a more holistic and long-lasting why as a result.

7. Seek out new perspectives. Self-help means seeking out new perspectives and people to inspire you and further cement your why. Look for great leaders and mentors with a firm sense of self to help you develop your own. Read books and seek out content that serves you and boosts your productivity, positivity, and purpose.