I know Simon Sinek is a world-renowned speaker and coach, his book sold like hot cakes across the globe, but hear me out first.
Humans have been seeking out purpose in their lives for centuries, some of us use faith to provide that direction and fill the ‘purpose’ gap. Others are looking for more scientific ‘physical’ if you prefer ideas to plug that gap and set off reading self-help books and heading on ‘their journey’ others believe capitalism can fill the gap if I can just… earn X a year, buy that house, get that job title (insert your own trinket in this space) or for many, they live a life without intention seeking their next dopamine hit from the latest social media platform presenting an image to the world to validate their ‘success’ as a human being.
As someone who has always been more about getting to the next station than actually enjoying the journey, ‘my why’ (to be clear my own personal ‘Why’, not that of my business Hurren & Hope) would be a brilliant North Star for me to shoot for, so I set out looking for my ‘why’ 8 years ago, alongside peer groups, coaches, friends, family members, self-help books, Ted Talks and my many years experience of working with professionals and high performers through my work, some of whom claimed to be very clear about their ‘why’ while others had given it less thought, and here it is…. It’s a myth!
Let me explain…
No one has ever reached their death bed and whispered to those nearest and dearest to them, If only I found my Why!
Life is made up of a series of events and it’s our role to make sense of it all and try and strive for the best possible outcome. Those of you with a faith are able to make sense of what is a random world of chance by putting your faith into a higher power, the dips are covered off by “through adversity, we grow” statements, and humility and gratitude are retained through the highs by placing faith in the fact the higher power has controlled those outcomes. It’s common knowledge people with a Faith are in general far more “Happy” (though Happy is a very elusive beast and one for another post) Control is a key part of ‘the why’ few people relish the prospect of living a life focusing on the fact the veneer of ‘life’ is a very fragile one that could be snatched away from us at any given moment, all the ‘trinkets’ the modern world claims we need to fulfill our lives mean little to those in Mariupol Ukraine right now.
Far better to apply a sense of ‘control’ by having a clear guiding light as to what it’s all about, for me I believe this is the Root behind our need to have a purpose in our lives, the normal functioning human brain is wired to optimism it’s the reason the pain of childbirth becomes hazier over the years, and enables us to bounce back from setbacks and overcome our fears, we all live in hope for a better future, something else to strive for.
Yet I’m sure we can all relate to points in our lives where you make it to that ‘next station’ (life milestone) the one that was going to complete your ‘Why’ and fulfill your every desire, yet we then set our sights on the horizon and decide we need something else. If we can underpin that sense of hope with a ‘why’ then it’s a very powerful tool to push us forward.
So hold on Mark, Having a ‘why’ sounds like a great thing! Yes and no, if like those with faith you can commit yourself wholly to the idea of a why, believe it 100% no matter how your faith is tested, and more importantly live with intention (every day your making decisions to take you closer to your 'why') then yes it's useful, but unlike religious faith, a ‘why’ is often a far more narrow goal and often fails to remain relevant as we move through the chapters of our lives.
I believe ‘Why’ is in the moment, ‘why’ reflects a chapter in your life, to hold it up as a north star to guide you through your life is a fallacy. What many refer to as their ‘why’ is more to do with their values and their belief systems “ I do it for my family” that’s a paternal instinct to provide for your family, do your family need a mansion on the hill and four holidays a year? Or would they like to you sit with you every night to eat a meal? Both behaviors in an individual can be covered with a ‘why’ that focuses on your family but it’s more important to live a life with periods of reflection and self-awareness so you can live with intention and change what is no longer working, adapt to your changing environment.
So what have I learned over my 8-year search for my 'why' and talking to others about theirs? In a very crude way, life can be split into three key areas, none are in isolation and I use the below categories only to try and bring some clarity to an article that could very easily become a novel.
In the world of work:
A career is made up of a mixture of chance, opportunities, relationships, hard work, and a roller coaster of emotions. Not all of these elements can be controlled but it's important to have a sense of direction (intention) as to where you are looking to take your career, this will ensure your efforts take you forward and opportunities that further your medium to long-term goals are not replaced with short term decisions.
How to live a career path with intention:
Give thought to where you are in your flow, where do you feel your values are best utilised what do you enjoy? These areas are likely to be where you will find the most purpose in your working week and where you will likely find the most success.
Struggling to work out what you enjoy? Start with what you don’t and work backward.
Once you have clarity over these points target job roles and company cultures that will enable you to work in your flow for most of the week, though don't kid yourself the perfect job for you exists, every role has periods we all just need to grin and bear.
Ambition and Endeavour are not directly linked to a ‘Why’ do you honestly believe Elon Musk has a ‘why’
Focus! If you want to achieve something it’s going to be your actions that matter, not your intentions, it’s all very well talking about a good game, what you are “going” to do doesn't mean a thing in the game of life. Ultimately if you don’t focus on the work that’s going to bring you success you will not succeed. Find your ‘why’ should be replaced with find your ‘grit’ or as a famous sports brand put it, JUST DO IT!
It doesn’t take a ‘why’ to be the best version of you.
the tallest trees got there by learning to bend in a storm, give yourself room to flex your life goals.