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What is Your Why? (5 Real Examples to Help You Find Yours)


My personal "Why" statement in life is to be worth everything that has been given to me, and to have as much of a positive influence on the world as possible. But what is a "Why" statement? How can you find your own "Why" in life?

You need to find and define your own personal "Why" in life. Every single person has a deep motivation that fuels their life in the grand scheme of things. If you keep questioning why you do the things you do, you will eventually find your own personal "Why" in life.

This article shows you how you can find your personal "Why". I've included actionable tips and different examples of others. After finishing this article, you will know exactly how to find your "Why".

What is a "Why" in life?

What is your "Why" in life?

This question is very common but makes you think about what you truly want out of life. How do you find out what your "Why" in life is? By asking as many questions as possible:

  • Why do I do this?
  • Why do I value this over that?
  • Why am I not happy when X happens?
  • Why am I stressed now?

If you keep asking these questions, it's likely that you'll eventually end up with the same answer. That answer is almost always your "Why" in life. That's the reason that makes you go forward in life.

The reason why you're unhappy now is that your situation doesn't align with your "Why".

Common answers to these "Why" questions are usually a variation or combination of the following:

  • Providing for my family.
  • Success.
  • To leave a legacy.
  • Feeling loved.
  • Having a positive impact on the lives of others.
  • Fortune.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking: “I want everything you just said!” And without giving more thought to this question, you might plan out your life to be a successful and rich person with a huge positive impact on the world.

Because that sounds like a good reason to be alive, right?

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Finding your "Why" in life

So how do you find your "Why" in life? Here's how you don't find it:

  • By sitting in a chair by the window, waiting for someone to tell you what your "Why" should be.
  • By having a "eureka!" moment.
  • By copying someone else's "Why" in life.

No. In order to find your personal "Why" in life, you really have to take a shovel and dig deep down in your conscious mind. How do you start digging? By asking yourself the questions that I've listed above.

Here's an example:

A: Why am I so stressed all the time?

Q: Because my work makes me stressed.

Q: Why do I work every day from 7:00 to 16:00?

A: Because I need money in order to do the things that I value most.

What do these answers show me? That my "career" has absolutely nothing to do with my "Why" in life. I only work because the money allows me to do the things that I value more. Let's continue.

Q: What do I value most?

A: To live a happy life and to be surrounded by people who I can have positive interactions with.

Okay, so this already becomes more existential, right? Your "Why" in life is usually not connected to a single factor in your life (like a career, a hobby, or a single good cause). It usually is bigger than that.

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Let's go on.

Q: Why do I want to have a positive influence on the world?

A: Because I've been given an opportunity in life that not a lot of other people have gotten (good upbringing, basic needs, family, health, education). I don't just want to take these for granted. I want to use this opportunity to give back to the world.

A-ha. There we are. This is a "Why" statement that I can personally be happy with. With just 3 questions, I've dug down to the bottom of my "Why", which shows me what drives me to do the things I do in life.

Examples of corporate "Why" statements

The "Why" statement has become quite popular ever since the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek became a global best-seller.

This book covers the importance of "Why" statements in the corporate world, and how leaders can inspire more people to do the same by starting with the question "why?"

What this basically comes down to is that everything you do - whether you're a business or a person - should have the same fundamental reason. So if somebody started to question your actions (why do you do that? why this? why that?), eventually, you'd ideally circle back to your main "Why" statement.

Since "Why" statements are very common in businesses already, I've decided to include a couple of well-known examples here. Personal "Why" statements are still less common, but by reading these examples, you might get inspired to reconsider your own versions!

  • We aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. - Apple
  • To connect millions of people in real life all over the world, through a community marketplace– so that you can belong anywhere. - Airbnb
  • To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. - Microsoft
  • To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. - Google

Why it's important to find your personal "Why"

A "Why" statement is often used in the corporate world, but why is it also important to determine your own "why" statement?

Because you're more likely to be happier when you live a life that's aligned with your purpose in life. We've written an entire article about this topic here.

We've studied this topic in a large-scale survey recently, and found that 34% of people associate their purpose in life with their happiness.

Highlight - 34% associate purpose in life with happiness

Another interesting study followed 136,000 people for about 7 years and came to the revealing conclusion:

The analysis showed a lower risk of death for participants with a high sense of purpose in life. After adjusting for other factors, mortality was about one-fifth lower for participants reporting a strong sense of purpose.

Purpose in Life and Its Relationship to All-Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular Events: A Meta-Analysis

So it's clear that finding your "Why" in life is important and beneficial for your happiness. But how do you find yours?

Defining your own personal "Why" in life

You can't go around and copy & paste somebody else's "Why" statement and expect to be happy by doing the same things.

No, you have to define your own personal "Why" in life.

Just as much as happiness is something that's unique for every single person, the "Why" differs from person to person.

Richard Branson's "Why" in life might be "to have fun in my journey through life and learn from my mistakes", while your own personal "Why" can be to just provide the best life to your family and children.

Copying and pasting the "Why" of somebody that you respect and look up to will probably leave you unhappy and unfulfilled. For example, I think Richard Branson is doing spectacular things, but I wouldn't be happy if I were in his shoes. My own "Why" is wildly different from his!

I have defined my own purpose in life, and I advise you to do the same!

Examples of personal "Why" statements in life

Even though you have to define your own "Why" statement in life, it's still interesting to read about other people's statements. That's why I've asked around to include examples of personal "Why" statements in this article.

I don't want you to copy and paste these "Why" statements and make them your own. I only want to show you how diversified these statements can be!

Here are actual examples of personal "Why" statements of the people I asked!

"My why is to share the power of therapeutic humor with others."

This personal "Why" statement comes from David Jacobson, who is the president of Humor Horizons. I think this is a great example of how simple a personal "Why" statement in life can be.

My why is to share the power of therapeutic humor with others. Humor has been life transforming for me. It has enabled me to cope with chronic pain and severe arthritis. I have been able to do a 50-miles unicyle ride as a fund raiser which I partially attribute my sense of humor to helping me complete. I wrote a book on the humor habits that I use to help me cope and I am now beginning a research project to use positive depression tests rather than negative (how happy are you vs how sad, etc). My sense of humor is my source of happiness!

"My why is to help people be more connected in their life, career, and business."

This "Why" statement comes from Beth Bridges and shows how a life event can solidify your purpose in life. Beth is an author and specializes in the power of networking. She also runs The Networking Motivator, which is a website about sharing networking strategies with others.

Here's how she defines her "Why" in life.

My why is to help people be more connected in their life, career, and business. A year and a half ago, my husband of 17 years had a massive heart attack and was gone in minutes. What saved my sanity? The friends and business connections who gladly helped me with things small and large. Without that community, I would have been lost in despair and sadness. Now, I want to make sure that everyone has the tools and knowledge to build their own community so that they can survive whatever life throws at them.

"To push myself to be the best version of myself so that I know my mom is smiling down on me."

This personal "Why" statement comes from Colby West, who shares a very touching story on how a life event can influence your "Why". I think this is a great example of how you can be driven to make the most of yourself by defining a fundamental reason, a.k.a. your "Why".

I lost my mom to alcohol abuse on the 14th of March 2017, which I didn’t know the degree of until it was too late. It took me about 2 years to realize that I needed to make a change in my life in order to become the person I know she would want me to be. Almost 4 months ago, I decided to work smarter AND harder and “spread my wings” a bit. I quit drinking alcohol, committed to health and wellness so much that I got my body fat % down to about 5%, all while adding 3 (soon to be 4) income streams to my life. Though I’m nowhere near finished, and will likely never be satisfied, I will continue to push myself to be the best version of myself so that I know my momma is smiling down on me, 100%.

"To leave the world better than I found it and be remembered by the people whose lives I touched as a force for good in their lives."

This one comes from Paige, which I find a really inspiring example. "To leave the world better than I found it" is such a simple but powerful purpose. Paige started a global branding and marketing firm - called Mavens & Moguls - 18 years ago. She's been happily married for 27 years, has a close circle of friends, nieces, nephews, and god kids.

She says:

Quite simply I want to leave the world better than I found it and be remembered by the people whose lives I touched as a force for good in their lives.

I lost 7 people very close to me in 6 years and know first hand no one on their deathbed wishes they worked more, made more money or won more awards. They just want to be with the ones they love most and to tell them they mattered. I think of those people often and the roles they played in my life. I want to be remembered for passing along the very best in me to others so their lives are better and happier in some way because I was part of it.

I hope these examples of personal "Why" statements inspire you to reconsider your own. What is the fundamental driving force in your life?

Here's my personal answer.

What is my personal "why" in life?

Here's a short version of my personal "Why" statement:

"To be worth it."

In order to explain what this means, I have to go back in time. Actually, I have to delve through my happiness journals.

On the 17th of July, 2014, I wrote a journal entry that eventually went off-topic into a rant about how lucky I was. This is what I wrote down:

"Seriously, I've been extremely lucky in my life so far. I have great parents and financial security. As a result, I've gotten a solid education, friends, safety, hobbies and I can easily get around. More importantly, I've not had any major setbacks in life so far.

That leads me to think: Am I worth it? Do I actually deserve all these things? More importantly, how can I make sure that I actually deserve everything that I've been lucky enough to have so far?

Simply appreciating what I have is definitely NOT enough. No way. I want to give back to my parents and to make them happy. I want to help other people as much as I've been helped in the past. And most importantly, I want to have a positive influence on the world.

Come to think of it, I need to be the best version of myself I can. I need to reach my full potential.

But what is my potential? I think I can potentially do a lot of good things in my life. I'm smart, physically fit and mentally healthy (I think). But why? Because I've been so lucky in the past already. My luck has given me so many potential opportunities, and if I want to be "worth it", I need to make sure that I don't let these opportunities go to waste. There are people with fewer opportunities (aka less luck) that still manage to have an amazing influence on the world by reaching their full potential. I need to do the same. I need to be worth it.

How?

  • By giving my "luck" to others as much as I can.
  • By "paying it forward".
  • By not letting my opportunities go to waste.
  • By appreciating everything that I have and not just taking it for granted.
  • By being the best person I can.

I don't believe in karma, but if I did, it basically comes down to accumulating as much positive karma as possible. That's how I can be worth it."

Even though I wrote this years ago, this is still exactly how I feel about my life. At the time, I didn't worry about my wording. Instead, I just wrote whatever thoughts raced through my mind.

But now, after giving it some more time, I have redefined my personal "Why" in life like this:

To be worth everything that has been given to me, and to have as much of a positive influence on the world as possible.

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Wrapping up

There you have it. There are many different reasons to do the things you do in life, but they generally follow the same fundamental driving force. If somebody started to question your actions (why do you do that? why this? why that?), eventually, you'd have to be able to circle back to your main "Why" statement. If you've made it all the way down this article, I hope you know how to define your own personal "Why" statement.

I'd love to hear from you now! What is your "Why" in life? What makes you do the things you do on a daily basis when you really think about it? Let's share more examples in the comments below!

Hugo
Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.

40 thoughts on “What is Your Why? (5 Real Examples to Help You Find Yours)”

  1. Hi Hugo,
    Honestly i've really been on this "why" stuff for a while. I finally found it by compiling the common elements from answers to this question: why are we friends? Why me in particular?
    The question usually made my friend think about what sets me apart from other people. I told my mentor about my newly found "why" (also know as purpose), but he said it wasn't convincing enough.
    Your article has just made me realise why he said that.
    When asked: what is your "why" ? As a person, you should be able to give your reasons for coming up with it and how you would like to implement it in the world as well.
    Thank you so much!

    Reply
  2. Hi Hugo, my "why" is to create a life of freedom by becoming the best version of yourself and to inspire and empower others to do the same so they can use their talents to make the world a better place.

    Reply
  3. I never thought so much about my WHY until I had read what you wrote. Now I feel that my deepest WHY comes from my own experience. How low or depressed you feel there is always someone who wants to help you with the first step, the first line of wisdom or the first question that awakes you from your own cycle of thoughts and feelings, that keeps you down. I want to contribute to those first steps to grow, learn and discover what living for you is all about! Because I learned from other people to never give up on myself.

    Reply
  4. You have asked the right questions. It seems that anything epic like starting self discovery program or owning a business, we are told to ask why.
    I like how you ask why are we doing the things we are doing in our lives to get down to knitty gritty of our purpose and values knocking out the stuff that doesnt align with our being.

    Reply
  5. Yes, many times many of us mix our real why with our small swallow whys, It is the deepest one that forces me to wake up daily and presses me forward towards that something every day with conviction and a lot of emotion too. thanks again for your contribution. Much appreciated.

    Reply
  6. Do you think teenagers can grasp defining their why? What age would you say (of course each person is different… so this would be approximate) is the target audience for defining a why?

    Reply
    • This is a great question, and to be honest, I don't think there's a one-fits-all answer here. For one, a purpose in life can change, and that includes a personal "why". In addition, I didn't really start to consider my personal "why" until I was 20 years old. And even then, my answer would be to "be rich and successful". Not really inspiring, I know.

      Either way, I'd say that there's no harm in starting this questioning at an early age. Consider talking about this topic with 18-year-olds. Even if it's unlikely that these children will figure out their "why" in life, it does result in critical thinking and self-awareness (which is great). And if those children are journaling and writing it down (like I was long ago), they will be able to appreciate just how you can change from reading their journal. I hope that makes sense. 🙂

      Thanks again for the amazing question.

      Hugo

      Reply
    • Good morning,
      I'm a teenager so i feel i can say teens can grasp defining their why.
      It just depends on the teenager's level of exposure to things that'll make them think about it. I started thinking about mine because i like listening to Simon Sinek on YouTube.
      It also depends on how committed you are to deep thinking or just reflecting on things that have happened to you on a regular basis.
      I really hope you're able to find yours.

      Reply
  7. I actually created a video about my "why". It centres around some of the regrets my mom had before passing away, and watching her trying to pack a lifetime into a few months. I vowed that would never be me. Having said that, the best statement that I keep coming back to is "I want to LIVE before I Die!"

    Reply
  8. Thanks for the article. My why is "to improve one's life." each word was important in the statement and I chose "one's life" because I think the improvement should be done on a personal and individual level because everyone is unique with their own hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

    Reply

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