I’m betting you already know this, but knowing your purpose, your “why,” is essential to achieving your goals in life. Having a set of goals is great, but that by itself isn’t nearly enough.
I’ve set many goals in the past, and then abandoned probably 90% of them shortly after that because they were superficial and not tied to a deeper purpose. Along the road to achieving a goal, there are always going to be times when you get stuck, or you go through what I refer to as The Suck.
Anyone who has a why to live can bear almost any what. – Nietzsche
Before we go any further, I should introduce you to a concept known as The Suck. I thought I came up with it, but apparently, Marines in Vietnam coined it way back in the day. Now, obviously my use of the term isn’t as bad as being stuck in the jungles of Vietnam for months on end, but whatever. You get my meaning. I like to refer to The Suck as a broad term that applies to times when you’re in a rut and don’t feel like doing anything, or when the shit is stacked up neck deep, and you just have to slog through it. I guarantee you there will always be The Suck, no matter who you are.
Knowing your purpose, your “why,” helps you get through any obstacles that arise along your path. It’s what helps you when you’re mired in The Suck. Along with that, having a well-defined purpose helps you figure out where you’re going and how you want to get there.
As Tony Robbins says in his TED Talk Why We Do What We Do, “if you have the right emotion, you can get yourself to do anything.” It’s not about rational decisions, it’s about your emotional response and the decisions stemming from that. (Also, if you need more reasons why you need to figure out your purpose, watch that video. It’s about 20 mins long and truly incredible. There’s a reason it’s in the top 10 most viewed TED Talks of all time.)
Another aside, read “The Tail End, “ and it’ll show you why you need a purpose in life (it really hit home for me). Otherwise, you’re basically just wasting what little time you have left to do anything. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my time doing things that truly have a purpose in my life than things that add little, if any, value to me.
Now on to the good stuff
Finding your purpose can be a truly outlook changing thing. Like Steven Covey outlined in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Begin With the End in Mind (Habit #2). If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s especially hard to get there. Alternatively, think of it like this, if you don’t know why you’re on that damned road, let alone what your true destination is, why the hell are you still driving on it?
To find your true purpose/why/whatever, write down or say aloud why you’re here, why you do whatever it is you want to do, or why you want some specific thing (i.e. lose weight, get back in shape, etc.).
Now ask yourself “why?”
If you said, “I want to make a lot of money to provide for my family” that’s a good start. Now, why do you want to provide for your family (and “to not be a deadbeat” is not the right answer here)?
Keep going a few times until you get to the meat of the question. Go until it gets visceral, until you get to your fight or flight emotions. That’s when you know you’ve got something real. “I want to look good in my jeans” is a good start, but “I want to be around to enjoy my grandkids and not have severe health problems like my dad/mom/friend” is better but probably not deep enough.
Author Dean Graziosi says in his book Millionaire Success Habits to go seven levels deep. I’m not sure if there is a specific number that you should do, but to his point, you definitely have to ask “why” more than once or twice. At that point, you’re still scratching the surface.
I’ve read other articles that say you’ll know you get to your purpose because it’ll make you cry. I’m not sure if this is true, either, but do whatever works for you (I won’t judge… here’s a tissue). The point is, it has to be a truly deep, emotional connection and not just something superficial like “I want my jeans to fit better.”
Knowing your “why” can empower you to take on any challenge, and power through The Suck. It helps answer the questions “how does this fit into my overall perspective?” “How does this advance my goals?” It’s what gets you to spring out of bed at 5 am when it’s below zero outside in the winter, or 100 degrees in the summer, and only you can find it.
Now that you’ve read this, what’s your purpose, your “why”? What is it that truly gets you out of bed in the morning?