I was jolted when I heard Ravi Zacharias say “the epitome of suffering isn’t pain, it’s pleasure that leaves one unfulfilled. ” I hadn’t thought about that angle on pain or suffering before. It made me think of another angle on a similar topic: “The epitome of failure isn’t failing. Failure is achieving your goals and dreams only to find out they were the wrong ones!” In other words, you reach the top of the proverbial ladder of success only to realize it’s been against the wrong wall!
Most of us either know, read about or have heard of someone who just doesn’t have the juice to cross the finish-line. Likewise, the story of someone who crosses the finish line with all the trappings of success but miserable is also familiar. If you don’t pause and ask yourself “Does what I’m doing really matter or am I just chasing my tail?”, you run the same risk. The good news is that having a powerful WHY (ie. a clear purpose) virtually eliminates that risk and at the same time sustains your Drive toward enduring success.
The reality is that all of us have to wrestle the question above at some point. The sooner you get into the ring and intentionally pin down your powerful WHY, the more assured you can be that the ladder you’re scaling is sturdy and against the right wall; asking after the fact won’t help.
Pink describes Purpose….. your powerful WHY…..as being the 3rd leg on the stool of Drive…internal motivation….that provides balance to the other two legs of Autonomy and Mastery. A powerful WHY in the context of Drive can be described as “the urge to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”
Although being in the service of something larger than ourselves is critical, I would take it one step further and say that it also has to be something that resonates with your deepest passion and “fits” with your core strengths and values. Only until you’ve taken the time to intentionally reflect inwardly on your core strengths and values are you truly ready to look outward and connect with the greater Why that drives you. The truth is, you need both inner awareness and an outer focus to balance your Drive.
In fact, “getting over ourselves” and adopting a “larger purpose” powerful WHY perspective is so central to enduring success that Jesus said it this way: “in order to find your life you must lose it”. His words make it clear there are compelling spiritual reasons to do so and evidence shows there are compelling practical ones as well:
- Those with primary “Purpose” oriented goals report higher levels of satisfaction, subjective well-being and lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to those with primary “Profit” goals.
- When a primary “Purpose” goal is lacking, attaining goals can actually leave you worse off!
- Chasing wealth solely for your own benefit is illusory. Beyond a certain level of income (~75K in today’s dollars), there isn’t much different in the levels of happiness between rich and average earners….and the latter don’t have to worry about the pitfalls.
- Spending money on other people or a cause instead of one’s self has been shown to actually increase one’s sense of subjective well-being.
What knowing your powerful WHY does for you and others
In addition to the spiritual and practical, the beauty of knowing your powerful Why is that it then gives boundaries to the HOW and WHAT you commit to. In addition, people are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Knowing your powerful WHY:
- Fuels internal motivation.
- Inspires those you lead.
- Focuses your passion as you work toward and not just on something.
- Inoculates you against an unexpected pitfall- your own success!
- Leverages your core values and strengths in a way that allows you to add the most value to yourself and others.
- Leaves a legacy.
How To Find Your Powerful Why
- Determine you will.
- Carve out uninterrupted chunks of time….you will likely need to lather, rinse and repeat.
- Connect with your core strengths and values (fyi- not an easy task; most of my coaching clients have a tough time completing the assignment).
- Get honest and ask yourself what you really care for, what resonates with you and what you’re passionate about.
There are 100 “good” things you could be doing and everybody has an idea of what it should be. The only person who can truly know WHAT you need to be doing to achieve enduring success is you, but only if you’ve first established your powerful WHY.
What is your powerful WHY? Is it clear enough to get you and those you lead where you want to go and will it lead to enduring success? If not, what’s the next best step your willing to commit to in order to get there?
Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear you’re thoughts.