Know your WHY! – Part 2

It is a key element in leadership effectiveness.

Know-whyIn the first part of this blog I outlined the WHY, our purpose in life, and explained why I believe it is important for you to know and talk about it.

In this second part, I will write about how you can get clarity about your WHY, and I will provide some recommendations of books which I found extremely helpful for an exploration and journey to my WHY.


What is NOT a purpose in life in this context?

Before diving into some tips on how you can explore or revisit what your purpose in life is, I would like to clarify which qualities I do not associate with the WHY and which ones, to me, are essential for a true purpose in life.

When you look at your life you may have goals, even very big ones, which have a more material focus. They may have an essence like ”I want to be the best in …” or ”I will own …”. These goals are usually time related and clearly measurable. They normally have a comparative or even competitive aspect and often include scarcity. Don’t get me wrong: it can be nice and even important to have these type of goals and meet them. But they would not serve or qualify as a purpose in life.

A purpose in life has a spiritual quality. It is outward focused on others rather than oneself. Often it could have the essence of ”I want to be the best for …” or “I want to support/help others achieve …”. In that way it is infinite and not time bound. It is immaterial and assumes abundance/connection to others. It is more a compass than anything else, giving direction in which your life can evolve.

So how can you start this exploration of your WHY?

When starting the quest for your purpose in life you need to be aware that you are starting a journey rather than getting to a point of sudden enlightenment. So both patience and perseverance are required.

It all starts with taking time for reflection on the question I have already stated in part one: “Why are you here?” Sometimes this question may be too abstract to find a meaningful answer. Therefore, the following question may be a clearer and simpler entry: “At what moment in my work or activities do I feel a deep sense of fulfilment?”

By reflecting on these question(s) regularly you may have moments of insight or revelations that give you more clarity on your WHY. The key is that you start somewhere, writing down the answers of the above questions. Don’t look for the ultimate refined description of your purpose! Over the last 15 years I have continuously revisited and refined my own purpose statement. So, don’t be surprised when it will not be done in a day, but it probably also does not take 15 years to get to a refined version.
In addition to this reflection, I also recommend to watch two TED talks which I found extremely helpful and inspiring.

Richard Leider: how to unlock the power of purpose

Michael Steger: what makes life meaningful

I hope watching them will help you in your exploration of your WHY!
Sometimes people tell me that a particular purpose statement was too abstract as it did not immediately express a particular occupation or activity. At the end of the day it does not matter how abstract or close to what you do you get with your own description of your purpose in life is. The key is that it deeply resonates with you and that living or acting in alignment with it gives you a sense of fulfilment.

Before I close this blog, I would like to recommend some books I consider very helpful for your explorations. For me, the first two rank very high on the list, as I like books in a storytelling style.

  1. John P. Strelecky: The why Café and the sequel Return to the why Café
    If you decide to go for these books, I recommend to wait at least 3 to 6 months until you read the sequel.
  2. Richard Leider: The power of purpose: Find meaning; live longer, better

I hope these books inspire you along your journey of exploration to finding your purpose in life.

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