The Power of Why: Why Knowing Your Why is Indispensable
It is easy in this world to concentrate on the day to day and forget about the power of why in our lives. Scanning the shelves at your local bookstore, it is all too easy to find titles that tell you to “focus on your ‘self’” and to “be you.” We are living in a world where being introspective about ourselves and what we genuinely want seems to be the difference between professional failure and success.
I see the appeal of this line of thinking, but I think that it is slightly misguided. Yes, being introspective about ourselves is valuable. It gives us some unique insights about our habits and preferences in our personal and professional lives. But that said, it doesn’t necessarily give us a roadmap forward. Moreover, we may find that our selves are incongruent with some of our current passions. For example, at our core, we may feel like we are introverts, yet we may be passionate about a career path or professional opportunity that requires more extroversion and charisma.
Ultimately, I believe that we need to focus on the power of why over a focus on our self.
By knowing your why, you get much closer to what you truly want—even if it is in opposition to what you believe is your inner self.
The Power of Why
Plenty of business strategists have written about the power of why. Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why is one of the most prominent examples. To know your why is to recognize your deep, visceral feeling toward something. In the career context, your why is what drives you to quit that stable job. It’s what makes you take an entrepreneurial risk or to volunteer for that nonprofit that is making a substantial difference in the world. Its power comes from the fact that it lights up your internal drive, causing you to do things and think in specific ways that may seem foreign to you.
Knowing your why, unfortunately, can be more complicated than expected. This quandary is because our why often isn’t apparent. It is deeply hidden and can go several layers deep. It requires you to be honest and, at times, be patient to understand what is really driving you in your day-to-day life.
By getting to know your why, you start to recognize that you are not a commodity in this culture of commoditization.
Your why makes you stand out in the world. Even if others have a similar mission to you, your underlying, why can’t be replicated. It is made up of your past experiences and your unique outlook on the world. This experience is powerful and can keep you edging forward in even the most challenging of moments.
Your why is with you—whether you know it or not. But one force that may accompany your why is self-doubt. Especially in our earlier years, we tend to do what we are told to do. We follow teachers’ instructions to get As on exams. We listen to our parents and start thinking the way that they do. But, when we need to branch out on our own and live according to our why, that reliance and lack of independent judgment can make self-doubt a real challenge.
I can speak from experience. I came from a background of being raised in a strict Catholic family. I attended parochial schools and later enlisted in the military and then graduated from the Naval Academy. Admittedly, it wasn’t very easy for me to re-learn how to do things without being told what to do – something the military prides itself on. Self-doubt becomes more present, which can not only affect day-to-day work but can make us question whether our why is actually our why.
There are no easy answers to this. I would say that the power of why lies in that instinctual feeling that you have. Our intuitions are almost always correct—even in the face of self-doubt. At your most profound level, your why will make itself present. It may take some work, but it will eventually become crystal clear to you.
Know Your Why
Your why is your compass in your personal and professional life. You can use it to not only accomplish your own goals but to help make the world a better place whether you are just starting your career or are in your prime years.
Recognizing the power of why can be a game-changer for you. It has for me!
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