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The Power of Why

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

Occasionally when we see someone who’s achieved something impressive we may think, “Them? Really?” We wonder, how did they do it? What we’re really wondering is, how can I do it too? I have the answer to both questions.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Tell me what I can do to overachieve,” I will, but I don’t want you to skip this next part. It puts everything into context and offers validity to what’s coming later in the article. It’ll be worth the read.

I’ve been “punching above my weight” my whole life. My secret is my obsession with goals— dating back to my teens. I’ll spare you the details, but the bottom line is over the years I’ve adapted and improved my approach to goal setting to create a unique technique. I want to share one part of it that’s become the key to everything.

As I streamlined and simplified my goal-setting system some of the complicated pieces got cut, but something that maybe didn’t seem important at first is now a key component. Of course the best goals are clearly defined (the what), have a deadline (the when), and include a plan to achieve them (the how and how much), but what surpasses all of those is the why.

The what, when, and how of goal-setting is more left brained (logical), but the why is right brained (emotional). Our head tells us what we should want, but our heart reveals what we really want . . . and why. Our why is our motivation and without that many good goals fall flat. When both our head and our heart are all in we don’t stop when we hit a speed bump (or a road block) because our passion and purpose push us past obstacles, naysayers, fears, and our resistance to change. We can go faster and further when we’re empowered by our why—and backed up by the what, when, and how. We could stop here and let the importance of the power of why sink in, but there’s more to it than that. Let’s explore what why means and how to use it in our life. No matter what we want—wealth, fitness, success—there is a correlating feeling we’re after, and knowing what it is helps us understand our why. Wealth isn’t about a pile of cash, it’s about what it represents to us. If we suddenly found out we had millions in the bank we could quit the job we hate, travel the world, and stop worrying about how we’ll pay our bills. In a word, money feels like freedom. Unlimited wealth can also make us feel more secure, successful, and allow us to help others and give back—and doing good feels good. As someone who has been super fit and then fat (it is what it is) I know that I feel better in every way now that I’ve gotten back in shape. I believe our outside often reflects how we feel on the inside. I know that’s true for me. My motivation to lose weight wasn’t just about looking better, it was about feeling better . . . about myself.

Success, like money, isn’t really a thing. It’s a feeling. When we get a degree or learn a trade we feel a sense of accomplishment and gain confidence. When we’re at the top of our field we feel important and powerful. When we’re recognized for our talent and achievements we feel respected and validated.

Lastly, we will often do things for others we wouldn’t do for ourselves. The power of why can also be applied to team sports, patriotism, and most of all, our families. So embrace what you want and why. Know that sometimes our goals are bigger than us, and live a life of passion, purpose, and meaning. When our goals are rooted in things that make us better (and make us feel better) and better the world around us, our life in general is better.

I know how preachy that sounds but a hollow goal like, “I want to make a ton of money” isn’t as powerful as, “I will make a million dollars so I can provide for my family and send my kids to college, give back to my community, explore the world, and free my mind from financial worry.” What’s most important to us, and why? That’s really the question we should be asking when setting goals.

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Well done, Lee. As always, your words, open eyes and ears and thoughts. I recommend to your readers, the 18 minute TedX talk by Simon Sinek - Start With Why. Literally, it changed my life to be purpose-driven and grounded in a mind-body balance. Here's the link. I could probably recite it, I've seen it so often. His count on the number of views surely doesn't take into account his followers like me who watch these pearls of wisdom hundreds of times:

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Mr. Sinek's focus was basically this: those in business know what they do; they know how they do it; but few ever say "why" they do it. He uses Martin Luther King Jr., Apple Computers and the Wright Brothers as example of the power of WHY: "I have a dream..." (not, I have a ten point plan); Apple is highly successful though being just another computer company... but they dare to challenge the status quo - that is their "why" and it is why people like me stand in line for 15 hours to buy the new iPhone 13 Max Pro; and Samuel Pierpont Langley was given huge contracts to figure out Powered Man Flight (women flight, too) and instead…

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