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What’s your why?



The philosopher Nietzsche said, “If we have our own ‘why’ of life, we shall get along with almost any ‘how.'”

Becoming “whys” — that is, owning our raison d’être, or reason for being — is the core question of most people’s lives. Why am I here? What’s my purpose?

Yet we were taught to put our attention on form rather than function. The popular childhood question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was reinforced by aptitude tests and guidance counselors who helped us select possible careers, and we’ve identified with these labels ever since. So while you’re a reverse mortgage professional in your business life, understanding your “why” can add a whole new dimension of meaning to the people you serve, to everything you do.

Your Business Purpose

How do you discover it? Allow form to emerge from focus. What are you passionate about? What is your heart calling you to communicate? Once you know your essence Self, how you express it can take many forms.

Here’s an example: a graphic designer reported, “The most significant moment was when you asked me, ‘What is your work?’ The irony was tremendous…here I had been looking for a new job for over two years, talking with companies all over the country, and your question totally stumped me. What was my work? The question came as a breath of fresh air in my congested life.”

Molly realized her purpose is “to stand for peace.” But she’s not an activist, organizing marches or chaining herself to fences in protest. While these are certainly viable avenues for expressing one’s truth, her path to peace takes the form of bringing new color and clarity to the magazine where she works, to the people whose lives she touches. By embodying peace, she stands for it every day in a quiet fullness.

And irony has transmuted to inspiration. Coworkers at her previous and current jobs have said the identical words to her: “You’re a breath of fresh air.” This is what Gandhi meant by, “My life is my message.”

The possibilities are limitless. And it all begins with becoming —embracing and embodying — your why.

9 Ways to Clarify Your Why:

    1. Relax  We don’t find what we seek through endless searching.
    2. Stop. Give yourself permission to stop doing, stop running, stop hurrying. Stop thinking you already know.
    3. Ask. Ask anything you want, but make sure it’s about your own understanding and development. Then wait. The answer will come.
    4. Listen. Listen with your whole being. You can listen while you work. You can listen while you sleep.
    5. Be neutral. Nothing is inherently good or bad in and of itself.
    6. Allow. “Trying” builds a wall between wanting and having. In the relaxed space of allowing you begin to receive.
    7. Learn. We learn by opening. Begin to balance the energy of opposites within yourself.
    8. Stand in it. You’ve learned who you are. Now stand in it. Be it.
    9. Give it. You learned it. You’re standing in it. Now give it. Let your life be a demonstration. Take a chance. Be humble. Be honest. Give as you were given. It returns a thousand-fold.


Leave a Comment


  1. Really???

  2. Hi The Critic ~

    I’m not sure what your one-word question refers to. Yes, this has been my experience, that of many clients, colleagues and friends, as well as a subject covered in depth in books that focus on life’s grand design.

    Of course, everyone has a unique perspective, so this may not resonate with you.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Amara,

    Please note I am the The_Cynic, not The_Critic. Sometimes, we see what we want to see, not necessarily what is actually in front of us.

    A cynic questions the motives of why something is said or done, not necessarily what was said or done, while a critic normally criticizes what is said or done without necessarily questioning the motive.

    My one word question has hit its target but not necessarily the bull’s eye.

  4. Hi The_Cynic ~

    Apologies for the oversight! There is another frequent commenter on here whose handle is The_Critic, and the eye does tend to perform closure 🙂

    Thanks again for your interest and response.


  5. Amara,

    No need to apologize. I am sure there are those who think your last name is your first name. I have problems pronouncing most names and offend far too many because of this inability.

    I like a lot of what you wrote but my experience is much different than the one you present. My education focused in on the foundational why in life while “pounding in” the how. “The why” is what motivated our teachers to teach at our school despite lower wages.

    I never met a guidance counselor until I was at a “junior” college. Even though I was friends with the head of “career” counseling at that college, I never participated in it. The only reason why the schools I attended before college administrated aptitude exams is because those exams were mandated by our state.

    While I respect many of the principles and actions of Gandhi, his fundamental beliefs and mine are very different. As to Friedrich “the Great” (in his own mind) well let us just say Friedrich is long dead but God has never been so.

  6. Hi The_Cynic ~

    Thanks for sharing your experience in depth! I also had a “mainstream” education and upbringing; a major life event catalyzed the dramatic shift in my thinking and life focus/purpose. You can read more about this on my website if you’re interested; I am also happy to email with you directly (please see my bio, above, for contact information). You may be interested/amused to know that my parents have a difficult time understanding who I am now, because their worldview has not undergone the same type of shift. Yet this expanding awareness is permeating the planet now, which is why it’s especially relevant for those to whom it’s a fresh concept.

    I appreciate you,

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