What’s your why?

By | 2013/05/12

What's your why?

Who are you?

What do you want?

In Babylon 5, two ancient races, implacably opposed, ask people two different questions – who are you? and what do you want?

Science Fiction or not, those two questions are largely representative of how so many of us go through our lives in a quest to understand who we are, and with a need to understand what we want.

We’re not only asking this of ourselves, but others ask it of us. Take job interviews, for instance. We’re asked to explain who we are. We’re asked to explain what we want – now and in the future.

With the who, and the what, it’s so easy to forget the other question, the why.

One of the most powerful, thought provoking videos I’ve seen, ever, was Simon Sinek’s TED presentation, How Great Leaders Inspire Action. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you watch it now. Sure, it’s almost 20 minutes long, but it’s well and truly worth it.

TED Talks – Simon Sinek – How great leaders inspire action


The what we want and the who we are are easy; they’re also almost entirely pointless if they’re not driven by a why.

All around us, every day, we see the effects of people who become lost in the who and the what, to the exclusion of the why. They’re the people obsessed with making a quick buck from blogging, but are such terrible writers they just lurch from one bout of histrionics to the next, hoping the media will latch on and give them a free ride. They’re the people who work in an industry for the money, without any passion for it, and thus, without any skill.

There’s nothing wrong with having desires, but desires work best when there’s a reason behind them. And that reason can’t be a what or a how or a who, it must be a why. You want to make money? That’s not a reason, that’s a finish line in a race, and totally unrelated to why you went in the race in the first place.

In short, so many people spend their entire lives soul searching in the wrong places – they’re looking for their what and their who. You need to know those, of course, but they’re the easy ones. Really – they are. You can discover a what and you can discover a who at the drop of a hat. Ironically enough, that’s why there’s so many bad life coaches and self-help books out there – because it’s easy to convince people that they’ve found purpose by finding a what and a who.

It’s the why that takes longer to discover, and that discovery comes from within, not without. Yet, it’s much more rewarding when you do. Your what and your who are the things that make you smile; your why is that deep-centred epiphany that lifts you and gives you purpose no matter what else life throws at you.

What’s your why?