What Is Your Why? (Examples And How To Find Yours)
Updated 14 August 2019
by Hugo: Founder of Tracking Happiness, marathon runner, data junkie and happiness tracker for almost 6 years.
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?
The answer is that 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. I'll also show you how I defined my own "Why" statement 5 years ago. But what is your own "Why"? After finishing this article, you will know exactly how to find out.
Table of contents
- What is a "Why" in life?
- Finding your "Why" in life
- Examples of corporate "Why" statements
- Defining your own personal "Why" in life
- Examples of personal "Why" statements in life
- "My why is to share the power of therapeutic humor with others."
- "My why is to help people be more connected in their life, career, and business."
- "To push myself to be the best version of myself so that I know my mom is smiling down on me."
- "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."
- What is my personal "why" in life?
- Closing words
Did you know that you are happier when you have a purpose and a passion in life? This article is a part of the biggest (free) guide on how to be happy and is covered in-depth in Chapter 6: Intellectual happiness. This chapter teaches you how to be happier by finding your "Why" in life.
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 at the same answer. That answer is almost always your "Why" in life. That's the reason that makes you go forward in life. That's what makes you unhappy if your current 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
- To leave a legacy
- Feeling loved
- Having a positive impact on the lives of others
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?
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 blatantly 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:
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 does this answer 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 also have a positive influence on.
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.
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 have to be able to 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
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.
Copy & 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!
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.
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 the happiness journals of my past.
On the 17th of July, 2014 (that was 5 years ago), 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.
- 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."
I wrote this 5 years ago in my happiness journal, and 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 raged 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.
Tracking happiness in order to follow your "Why"
I want to mention here that I've been tracking my happiness for over 5 years now. What does this mean? It means I spend 2 minutes every day to reflect on my day:
- How happy was I on a scale from 1 to 10?
- What factors had a significant effect on my rating?
- I clear my head by jotting down all my thoughts in my happiness journal.
This allows me to constantly learn from my evolving life. It's also how I find out whether or not my daily activities are serving my fundamental motivation in life. More often than not, I'm usually the unhappiest when I'm doing something that doesn't align with my personal "Why" statement.
This is how I purposefully steer my life in the best direction possible. And I believe you can do the same.
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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!
Who runs Tracking Happiness?
My name is Hugo, and I'm from the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, a passion for data and statistical analysis and am an expert in happiness.
I've tracked my happiness every day for 5 years in a row. And I'm now using my knowledge to inspire you to prioritize your happiness. You see, I'm a strong believer in what gets measured gets managed. I want to show you what I - and many others - have learned while tracking our happiness.
My Happiness Essays have reached thousands of people around the world and have been shared in many places.
With my data, I have inspired hundreds of others to also track their happiness. And I'm hoping this number will only grow more!
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