How to Identify Your "Why"

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Fredrich Nietzsche once wrote, “The person who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” You may have heard of the popular book called Start With Why, or watched a TED Talk by the same title. It seems like so many personal development gurus are talking about your ‘why’, but you might be left wondering what it is, or how to identify yours. 

There are simple steps you can take to identify your ‘why’, but what’s more important than simply identifying your ‘why’ is how you choose to use this knowledge once you have it. Understanding what a ‘why’ is, and having clarity about your own ‘why’, will allow you to have a deeper connection to yourself and your life’s purpose. 

What is a ‘why’?

A true ‘why’ is your driving force in life. It is the fuel that energizes you and the anchor that keeps you true to your mission and purpose. Your ‘why’ will propel you forward as you reach toward your goals. You may say that your ‘why’ is the reason that you get out of bed in the morning, but it is also what keeps you getting up day in and day out, even when times are tough. 

Your ‘why’ is the reason that you persevere when life feels challenging, and it’s what keeps you going full steam ahead when everything is in alignment. Your why is what won’t let you take ‘no’ for an answer when you see roadblocks ahead of you. Your ‘why’ is that fire in your belly. 

While many people think that their ‘why’ is a logical, rational reason for doing something, nothing could be further from the truth. Your ‘why’ is emotional—it comes from your heart, your soul, your belly. It is not a cerebral reason for being, but rather a deep, passionate calling for something larger than yourself. 

Even if you haven’t identified your personal ‘why’ yet, you do have one inside of you. You simply need to find it. 

Why it is important to connect with your ‘why’

Your ‘why’ is what drives you. No matter what stage of life you’re in, your ‘why’ is what will help you take action toward your goals. When you’re deeply connected with your ‘why’, nothing can or will stand in your way because roadblocks will seem surmountable and success will feel necessary and inevitable. 

Knowing your ‘why’ will provide you with guidance in times of uncertainty. When your why is at the root of your dreams, desires, goals, choices, and actions, you take control and live your life with purpose, on purpose.  

Connecting with your ‘why’ will also make decision-making easier and will help bring clarity to your long-term goals. When you have a clearly defined ‘why,’ it acts as a litmus test for your decisions—is what you want in alignment with your ‘why’? This additional guidance allows you to have discernment and fosters confidence that any decision you make will either draw you closer to your ultimate desires, or further away. 

As you define your ‘why’, you will become even more in alignment with your goals. You will gain clarity about how your goals will serve you and your greater purpose, and will be able to give intention and meaning to everything you choose to do. 

How to identify your ‘why’

When identifying your ‘why’, I encourage you to take time to pause and reflect. You may want to come back to this exercise multiple times when you are in different moods or levels of motivation. You may want to find a mentor and talk through your ‘why’, journal about it, or meditate on it. Take time for introspection, and truly ask yourself the following questions:

  • “What is most important to me in life?”
  • “Why is that the most important thing to me?”
  • “Why is that the most important thing?”

I recommend going at least seven layers deep in your questioning. Each time, you will learn something about yourself. Pause and reflect and try to get to the root of what drives you. You’ll know when you find your core ‘why’. It is undeniable, powerful, and emotional. 

An example of someone finding their ‘why’

My friend recently completed this exercise. I’ll share her process with you as an example of how this works in a practical sense:


Q:  What’s the most important thing to you in life?

A:  I want to be successful.


Q:  Why is being successful the most important thing to you in life?

A:  Because I want to own a big house.


Q:  Why is owning a big house the most important thing to you in life?

A:  Because I want my parents to be able to live with me.


Q:  Why is having your parents live with you the most important thing to you in life?

A:  Because I never want my parents to stress over money again, like they did when I 

     was growing up.


Q:  Why is having your parents never stress over money again the most important thing

      to you in life?

A:  Because I want to show them how much I love them, how much I appreciate them,

      and how grateful I am for everything they sacrificed for me. I want to provide for

      and take care of them like they did for me.


You see, at the beginning of the exercise, my friend thought her why, her fuel, her purpose for the choices she was making and the actions she was taking, was to be successful and have a big house. But when she dug deep, she realized that her real reason and purpose, her core why, her true fuel for everything she did, was to give back to her parents—to show them love, appreciation, and gratitude; and to provide for them and take care of them. Notice the power of her core why!

What to do when you find your ‘why’

When you identify your ‘why’, you’ll likely want to shout it from the rooftops. You’ll be so deeply connected to and aligned with your goals and your decisions, that you won’t let anything stand in your way!

While your current excitement is important, it is just as important to stay excited. Keep coming back to your ‘why’ as you reach for new heights and work toward the life you desire. A proven way to stay connected to your ‘why’ is to share it with your networks, friends, and mentors so they can support you in your purpose-driven life. 

Connecting with your ‘why’ is about freedom. You are free to make decisions that serve you, connect with people who support you, and live a life that you love. 

As you pursue purpose-filled communities, I encourage you to join the Choose YOU Challenge, where you will be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are ready to live a life that’s free by design.

Click here to register for the free live, interactive online event.