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.
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:
- Relax We don’t find what we seek through endless searching.
- Stop. Give yourself permission to stop doing, stop running, stop hurrying. Stop thinking you already know.
- Ask. Ask anything you want, but make sure it’s about your own understanding and development. Then wait. The answer will come.
- Listen. Listen with your whole being. You can listen while you work. You can listen while you sleep.
- Be neutral. Nothing is inherently good or bad in and of itself.
- Allow. “Trying” builds a wall between wanting and having. In the relaxed space of allowing you begin to receive.
- Learn. We learn by opening. Begin to balance the energy of opposites within yourself.
- Stand in it. You’ve learned who you are. Now stand in it. Be it.
- 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.