How I Found My 'Why', and a Step-by-Step Guide to Do It Yourself
While 2020 has been a year of extreme uncertainty and change, it is a natural response to want things to go back to “normal”. But, what if it was a year that we re-framed as a pivot point in our lives? As a time when we were able to strip away all of the distractions, the things that keep us doing the things “we’ve always done”, and focus inward? If you want to go more “woo woo” you can call it intuition, but what I know it to be is you. Who you are, when no one else is telling you what you should be, or what others need you to be. Just you.
I know this because it’s taken me about 35 years (my birthday is in January y’all, happy birthday to meee!) to start listening to myself. For all of my teens and twenties, I was driving for results. I was working hard in school to get the best grades, burning the midnight oil at work to prove that I was capable, and churning through business school trying to keep up with some of the smartest people in the world. I hit all of my milestones and achieved all of my goals. And then, I had my first child. All of the things that I thought I wanted...were still there, people! This is not the cliché story that I became someone else. However, I had a new perspective on why I was going after those things. There was a little tiny baby that needed me for EVERYTHING. I had to slow down. I couldn’t keep running at the speed of light no matter how superhuman I think I am. In that space and mindset that was created out of this situation, I started down the path to my why.
How I Found My 'Why'
The first glimmer of it began in business school even before my daughter, Lily, was born – a class taught by an almost retired former dean of the school, who brought in a ballet dancer as a speaker. Yes, a top 10 business school, known for finance and economics, brought in a ballet dancer. Needless to say if you know anything about me, this was my favorite class. We heard about how the dancer got into his state of flow and what he did to create space to come back to himself to make better decisions. We read a lot about building intuition and the art of leadership. It was fascinating and so different than everything else I had focused on in my life up until that point. Then, the class ended and the lessons I learned became a distant memory amidst all of the to dos and achievements I was working towards. Until, I started meditating. I finally was creating the space I needed to remember these lessons and listen to myself. Couple that with becoming a mother, it was a recipe for focusing in on what is most important in my life. I stopped burning the midnight oil at work. I started a business with one of my best friends. And I check-in with myself everyday to course correct when my ego or the voices of others start to feel overpowering. It’s not to say that I spend 100% of my time on purpose-driven work, or that I’ve become a monk or a nun. But it is to say that I feel much more in control of my life and more present for those around me.
How To Find Your 'Why' - 5 Step Process
Ok so maybe you’re thinking this sounds great, but how do you get from where you are, to more control and more presence in your life? Well, Shanna and I both love a good process. So here is my step-by-step guide for finding your why:
Step 1: Education – find resources that can help you understand what you’re even going after. My favorite recommendation is the book “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans. It has activities and thought starters to help you define what’s important to you in all aspects of your life, and an approach that leans on design principles to iteratively prototype what works for you to build it.
Step 2: Awareness – once you have the knowledge, it becomes much easier to be aware of the things in your life that are serving you, and the things that aren’t. Pay attention to the way you feel throughout the day. At the end of each day, take 5 minutes to write down the things that energized you, the things that drained you, and if you were in a state of flow at any point. Over the course of a few weeks you will begin to see patterns around what gives you more energy and what isn’t working for you.
Step 3: Space – once you have the knowledge and some data from your own life, you need the space to reflect on those things. Meditation for me is a great way to create that space, but that isn’t the only option. Anything that makes you feel calmer or more centered will do the trick. If you need a few things to try out, yoga, journaling, dancing, and breathwork are all great tools.
Step 4: Healing – once you’re aware, there are often limiting beliefs that can block the pivots you want to make in your life. Working on yourself to heal any traumas you may have experienced over your life, or ridding yourself of negative thoughts that keep you stuck where you’re at is a big part of the process. I find that this is the step in particular where I need help from someone else – a therapist, a coach, or a friend that is really good at holding up a mirror are all great places to start. We have a bunch of topics on the podcast that are related to this if you want to dive into any of these or other options for support here – see episode 6 on Transformational Coaching, episode 22 on Hypnotherapy , or episode 50 on Healing through the Subconscious.
Step 5: Practice – in my experience, this is the most important step. Things are going to come at you that are going to test your resolve or tempt you away from your 'why' – which is why it’s so important to continue making the space and doing the healing work so that you can keep listening to you, and no one else.
Want to dive deeper?
Check out our episode with Efosa Guobadia - Episode 36: Start with Your Why with Mindset
Other Book Recommendations:
The Alchemist by Paul Coehlo– great book for education, and building awareness
The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo – inspirational story from the author which will get you in the mood to start down the path
TED Talk – Simon Sinek, Start with Why