Before we can fittingly and reliably formulate a vision, mission, value and legacy statements, it is important that we start off with a WHY-declaration as a point of departure and a statement launching platform.
Many people hesitate when being confronted with a WHY-declaration and the reason is quite simple. They do not know what their real purpose in life are. They do not know why they are on this planet and what their contributions should be. Without knowing the real purpose behind our existence, we won't be motivated and happy. Without a WHY-declaration - the chances are almost a 100% - that we will frequently experience 'Monday blues' and/or counting down the number of weekdays left before the next weekend. Now, the key questions that we should ask ourselves is…
Do I want to be eager and look forward to waking up every single day, sure about my mission in life?
There are three distinct phases when it comes to performing any task, obtain objectives or to achieve a goal. These are the…
WHAT you are doing,
HOW you are doing it and
WHY you are doing it.
The first two are pretty straightforward. When explaining it - in a simplistic manner - using the example of brushing one's teeth.
In the first place, WHAT the action is about, is quite obvious… you have to brush your teeth. The next, HOW you brush your teeth, is by taking a toothbrush with toothpaste on it and going in a circular motion, or whatever your parents/dentist has taught you over the years. Now comes the most important and challenging part… the WHY. Identifying the WHY behind brushing your teeth, is a rather simple exercise, because you do not want your breath to smell, or you want to get rid of the food that are stuck to prevent bacteria from damaging your teeth and gums or you want to have white sparkling teeth like a Hollywood star.
Using the same principle, a similar approach and reasoning in our current professional lives, isn't always quite so straightforward, and requires that we make time to formulate our WHY declaration.
We have had a job for the past few years (WHAT), we are well-versed with the job's scope and know exactly HOW to perform the various tasks required, but the bigger question is, WHY am I actually spending most of my time and energy on this job? Am I content and truly happy, doing what I am currently doing? Do I feel fulfilled? Do I feel that I am achieving something worthwhile? Is there any other purpose to what I do, other than to make money? Does others draw any value from what I am doing?
The only real way to attain fulfilment is to authentically understand what our true purpose in life is. When compiling our WHY-declaration, we should rather steer clear og cryptic questions such as…
“why are we here?” and/or
“what is the purpose of life?”
…because these questions will most likely end-up being philosophical, argumentative and result in unhealthy thoughts and perspectives. Please keep in mind that each and every individual has the power to create their own unique purpose in life, and which shouldn't be influenced by others, even parents, teachers or closest friends. Because, this life is yours and yours alone.
Importance of a WHY-declaration
While we are exploring and compiling our personal WHY-declaration, which we are giving our actions a lot of thought and gradually start to gain clarity regarding the purpose and meaning of our life. A clear, well defined, unambiguous and compelling WHY-declaration, brings with it the following benefits…
Determines what you truly desire: In this case, instead of starting with the WHAT, learning the HOW and then discover the WHY, consider doing it in a reverse order. Commence with determining the WHYplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigI.e. your own unique, personal and once off WHY-life matters to you!, because this will determine what you really want to achieve in life. Once we have found our WHY, we will naturally start setting goals and preparing to acquire the necessary skill sets to accomplish it.
Improved Focus: Face it, we are easily distracted nowadays, especially by the technology. How many times does your phone interrupt activities at work? How frequently do you keep your phone on silent during a class, meeting or workshop… for just in case? How often do you scroll through your Facebook messages or quickly tweet something? Habitually checking your emails? WhatsApp interuptions? With our WHY-declaration, we will be clear about what our end goal is, and that tends to remove unnecessary distractions automatically. This do not imply that a WHY-declaration will remove all distractions completely, but it will definitely place us in a much better frame of mind than what we previously had.
Improved Decision Making: The clarity of a compelling WHY-declaration will enable us to make better choices and take effective decisions for our lives. All choices and decisions, both small/large and simple/complicated, are covered here. Without true clarity in our lives, it is more likely that the decisions we take will not be the best ones. But when we evaluate all of your choices and decisions against our WHY-declaration, with questions such as… “Is this choice good for my life?” or “Will such a decision propel me to achieve my goals?” Or “Will it slow my progress and push me off track?”
Greater Accountability: “Drifters” are those people who merely float along with life. Whenever something goes wrong, these group of people normally are the first ones to raise their hand and say that they have no fault, and the fault lies in others, or the company, or the government, or modern society, …etc. They fail dismally to consider the consequences of the decisions they make. With a personal WHY-declaration, we are quite likely to consider the consequences of everything we do and the impact that it will have on other people, our environment and/or the world.
Combat Procrastination: How many times have we said “Ah I’ll just do that later?” How many times have we pushed a task back, because we are facing a problem or deadline? Procrastination is the main culprit here, and - to a greater or lesser extent - has probably been affecting us our entire lives. Knowing our WHY, will give us the courage, priority, urgency and grit to face whatever problems we bump into and solve them. The reason is simple… our end goal in life is clear and we will not stop or give up, because the end goal is something we really want to accomplish.
Being Happier and Healthier: It is a real “Eureka” moment to establish our true purpose in life. Doing this will allow us to look forward to the future with a high degree of certainty. This will have a dramatic effect on our happinessplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigHappiness Can Be Learned
A new study coordinated by the University of Trento shows the beneficial effects of an intensive program on happiness.
The results showed that several psychological well-being measures gradually increased within participants from the beginning to the end of the course. That was especially true for life satisfaction, perceived well-being, self-awareness and, because we finally have clarity and we are no longer stuck in our lives. There have been a number of studies conducted which indicate that when an individual knows his/her life purpose, there is a significant positive impact on his/her health. When we are happier, we tend to be healthier. When we are optimistic about our future, it will give our health a boost as well!
Exploring and Compiling a WHY-declaration
When we understand the many benefits of creating our own personal WHY-declaration, it is time to jump right into action! This is not going to be a stroll in a park, the exercise will be mentally and emotionally draining, but - in the long run - rest assured that it is going to be well worth the time and effort. When we determine and realize our WHY, we also discover our life’s true purpose and that will allow us to shape our life's exactly as we want it. This won't happen overnight, will require dedicated Me-time for at least two weeks and after that, it is not the end yet, because as we evolve, grow and develop, so our personal WHY-declaration must also be adjusted, adapted and tweaked accordingly in order to either limit or avoid burnout, future shock and psychic wounds.
The most effective way to explore and discover our WHY, is by asking ourselves specific questions, that could be refined into the following 12 key questions that
will help usplugin-autotooltip__small plugin-autotooltip_bigPlease do not rush through these questions. Find a quiet place before starting this exercise, because it is going to take a lot of focus. As you go through the questions, think deep and put your thoughts on paper or a journal. At the end of it, determine the similarities and differences in your answers, which will provide an indication of your WHY.
to compile and formulate a clear WHY-declaration!
How can I improve the lives of others? Remember the warm fuzzy feeling in one's chest when you feel that you have done a good deed for others? It feel good. Tap from this emotion and list down the things that you think you can and want to do to improve the lives of other people.
What are the things I do that seem to make time pass quickly? When we do things or participate in activities that we are passionate about, time flies because we are not focusing on the clock. When holding a job today, how often do you glance at the clock to see how many hours you have left before knocking off? Use this as a contrast and make a list of all the things or activities that - when you are doing it - make you to forget or ignore time completely.
When I were a kid, what did I really enjoy doing? What do your hobbies and pleasures as a kid got to do with your adulthood? You will be pleasantly surprised! There were probably tons of things that you really had fun doing, which gave you plenty of fond memories. Try to identify some kind of pattern here and this can serve as an important clue to your life's true purpose. Are there things that you really enjoyed doing as a kid, that you are still enjoying doing today as an adult? Most of us tend lose sight of the things we really enjoyed as a kid due to the responsibilities and pressures of adulthood. This - sadly - creates a “disconnectedness” within us and our focus changes from things that we really enjoy doing, to things that we feel we have to do, because of the rewards associated with them… such as doing a job we hate merely to pay the bills.
What am I willing to do even, if it makes me look stupid? Passion overcomes everything, including the embarrassment or shame that comes along with pursuing your goals. Think about things that you are willing to do, even if your friends - or others - give you the disgusted look. Normally people tend to snicker at someone else's goals and ambitions, but realize this, these people are snickering because - deep down - they are afraid that you will one day become successful, while they remain stuck in the same place. Thus, people may snicker at your goals and ambitions, but if you can overlook or ignore it and press on to pursue your dreams. Once you start obtaining results, this is when the same group of snickering people will start giving you the respect you deserve. Therefore, take the liberty of listing all your dreams, even those that others may view as ridiculous.
What are some of the things that people turn to you for help? If you are someone that other people often come to for advice, then think about what they ask you to do. Look for commonalities. Do they tend to ask you for advice in a certain area? Most people struggle to see some of the strengths that they possess. They do not believe that they have these positive attributes, but the people that ask for their advice and guidance certainly do think so. When you think about the reasons why people ask for your help, it will assist you to identify some of your natural talents. In this case, a SWOT-analysis might not be such a bad idea either.
If time was running out, what would you do? A thought experiment: You have been told that you only have one more year left to live. What are the things that you would do in your final year? How do you want to be remembered after you are gone? What do you want your friends and family to say about you at your funeral? There is nothing like death being around the corner to sharpen our focus, concentration and start thinking about the things that mean the most to us. Nobody really want to think about dying, but this is quite a effective way to identify what your real priorities and true values are. Please do not skip this question, as you will find it will reveal some very important details that will shape your WHY-declaration.
What are you prepared to go the extra mile for? Has there been anything that you have made the extra effort to accomplish? Regardless the challenges and obstacles that slow you down, you pressed on and completed the task. These are things that you are likely to be passionate about, mainly because you went against all odds to do it.
If I have the opportunity to teach people, what would the topic be? This is a question that makes you think how you want to contribute to the world, and the type of legacy you want to establish for yourself. You are now forced to think about the different talents you have, and how you can take advantage of them and have a real impact in the lives of others. It is not mandatory for the impact to be either global or viral. Most often, your passion will probably lie in impacting lives on a more personal level.
What are the things that you are currently paid for that you would be willing to do for free? Is there any task, activity, job or project given to you that you are willing to do for free? Or stay overtime to complete it without complaints? Or any topics that you were interested to read up and conduct research on after a long day at work? These are likely tasks and topics that you have a passion for. Just keep in mind… although passion is not everything in life, it helps a lot to provide meaning (WHY) to your life.
What are other people grateful to you for? In your entire lifetime up to now, you must have extended help to many people. Think about the things that you have done for others that they really appreciate. Think about what they said to you afterwards. Sometimes, a simple “Thank you” has a much deeper meaning attached to it.
What would you do if money wasn’t a concern and you belief that you can achieve anything? When you are financially free, with all expenses and debts taken care of, how would you spend your time? If you had the ability to accomplish anything you want, what would you pursue without a second thought? Currently, you do the things you are doing mainly because you need to make a living. Thought experiment: Let's eliminate that. You have a billion rand in your bank account today. Would you still continue doing what you are doing, or would you immediately drop it and do something else?
What is your fondest memory as a child? It is time to think and consider your childhood again. What you need to do here, is to think about your fondest memories. What did you stop doing that you really enjoyed, because you were growing up? Did your parents or teachers talk you out of doing something that you were truly passionate about as a kid? Identifying these passions, that you gave up on when entering adulthood, is a step in the right direction to identify your WHY.
If you do not start doing something different today, do you really think that your life will be any different tomorrow?