A motivated person

The Power of “Why”: Discovering Your Deepest Motivations

We’ve all experienced those times when we feel stuck in a rut, personally or professionally, myself included. You work hard chasing your goals and achieve milestones in your business or career. But despite your efforts, a quiet longing persists inside, a questioning voice whispering, “Is this it?” This nagging feeling often stems from the lack of a clear “why” behind your actions—the deepest motivations that give your efforts meaning and purpose.

The Importance of “Why”

Why is discovering your “why” so critical? I am going to explore three reasons with you:

Your “Why” Provides Focus and Direction

Knowing your “why” acts like an internal compass, guiding your decisions towards what matters most. It helps you prioritize goals, push through obstacles, and say no to shiny distractions. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, explains that great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Steve Jobs inspired people by starting with why. Their crystal clear sense of purpose provided a North Star for their actions.

Without this clarity of purpose, it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to juggle competing priorities. You may find yourself jumping from one thing to another based on whoever is yelling loudest. But when you know your “why,” you have a framework for evaluating opportunities and challenges. You can assess whether something aligns with or diverges from your core motivations. Your “why” grounds you when forces pull you in multiple directions.

Actionable Tip: When I face difficult decisions, I pause and ask myself, “Does this align with my deeper purpose and motivations?” If yes, I pursue it. If not, I consider saying no or delegating it to someone else. My “why” helps me discern which battles are worth fighting.

Your “Why” Drives Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation comes from within rather than relying on external forces like money or acclaim. Psychologists define it as “doing an activity for its inherent satisfaction rather than for some separable consequence.” It’s what propels great artists to create not for fortune or fame but for the sheer love of their craft. Knowing your core motivations taps into this well of intrinsic drive.

Research shows that intrinsic motivation leads to better long-term outcomes than extrinsic motivation powered by carrot and stick incentives. Intrinsic drive fosters grit and perseverance to power you through challenges. It also leads to higher-quality outcomes as you fully invest yourself in projects instead of merely checking boxes.

Tapping into intrinsic motivation is especially critical for solopreneurs. Without a boss micromanaging you, you must self-direct each day. A clear “why” acts like an internal boss, pulling you forward in alignment with your true goals.

Actionable Tip: When I feel unmotivated, I try to avoid transitional “have-to” language like “I need to write this proposal to pay the bills.” Instead, I tap into deeper motivations like “I get to create a proposal to help small businesses succeed.” This subtle reframe ignites my intrinsic drive.

Your “Why” Provides Meaning and Connection

Uncovering your core motivations allows you to connect day-to-day tasks to a bigger picture beyond yourself. Experiencing this sense of meaning and purpose is pivotal to life satisfaction. Research by self-determination theorists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan shows that fulfilling three basic psychological needs – autonomy, competence, and relatedness – maximizes well-being. Relatedness refers to feeling connected to something larger, like contributing value to society.

Knowing your “why” grounds you in relatedness by linking mundane activities to transcendent impact. Your work becomes a vehicle for leaving a positive mark on the world in alignment with your values. Instead of simply chasing SMART goals, you pursue missions infused with personal meaning.

This sense of meaning fosters vitality and passion. In their book Living Forward, authors Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy explain that life becomes filled with more joy and meaning when we can align immediate choices with overarching purpose. Use your “why” as the bridge between the day-to-day and the big picture.

Actionable Tip: When working on a project, I remind myself how it aligns with my core motivations and contributes value. This small mindset shift infuses my work with meaning.

How to Uncover Your “Why”

Discovering your unique “why” requires courage, honesty, and self-reflection. It’s no simple feat! Begin by asking probing questions without settling for glib answers:

  • What truly energizes me and puts me into a state of flow?
  • What activities would I happily do even without getting paid?
  • What personal values and causes do I care deeply about?
  • What legacy and impact do I want my time life to have?

To dig deeper, Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, recommends the “Artist’s Date”—taking yourself on solo excursions to nurture your inner creativity. Use these excursions to relax, reflect, and tap into what sparks you.

You can also seek inspiration from others. Read biographies of purpose-driven individuals you admire. What drove them? Listen to podcasts on self-discovery. Attend seminars on finding meaning and fulfilment. Learning how others uncovered their “why” can catalyze your own search.

Finally, don’t expect discovering your “why” to be a one-time event. It’s an iterative process requiring ongoing self-discovery through life’s twists and turns. As you grow and evolve, so too will your motivations. Use the ideas above – focus, intrinsic drive, meaning – to continually re-centre yourself. Trust this compass precisely when the path ahead seems hazy.

The Journey of Self-Discovery Never Ends

Uncovering your deepest motivations lights a fire within to carry you through adversity and remain centred amid chaos. But the journey doesn’t end with an “a-ha” moment of finding your purpose. Discovering your “why” requires lifelong curiosity into what gives your life meaning, sparks your passion, and aligns with your values.

Here are three final tips for staying aligned with your ever-evolving “why”:

Check-In with Your Internal Compass

Set a monthly reminder to evaluate whether your recent activities reflect what matters most. Identify any misalignment between daily tasks and core motivations. Then, make small course corrections – like blocking distractions or saying no to opportunities that diverge from your purpose – to realign. Frequent check-ins ensure you stay centred on your North Star.

Explore Self-Discovery Resources

Keep nurturing your inner self through books, workshops, retreats or whatever helps you know yourself more deeply. Seek out resources on meaning, purpose, and motivation whenever you feel that quiet longing inside, suggesting it’s time to reconnect with your “why.”

Trust the Iterative Process

Understand that as life changes, so too will your motivations. Let go of rigidity around an unchanging purpose statement. Instead, adopt a growth mindset, viewing self-discovery as an ongoing adventure. Moving with this process instead of against it brings freedom, sparking creativity when it’s time to redefine your “why.”

The Henry Thoreau quote, “Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves”, applies perfectly to uncovering your “why.” By boldly peering within, you gain the focus, intrinsic drive, and sense of meaning to guide your days with gratifying purpose. The journey awaits whenever you’re ready.