Updated: Sep 24
When you set yourself a goal to achieve but know it won't be easy, how much focus do you put onto your WHY for wanting it?
Do you just think about the goal in terms of, "it would be great to have written a book by the time I am 40" or "I would love to be working in a new job with flexible hours", but not actually focus in on ALL the reasons behind WHY you want these things - reasons that really matter to you, deep down?
Without knowing your WHY to a goal or desired life outcome and without keeping that why at the top of your mind and reflecting back on it regularly, you will be making the work you have to do to reach your goal a much greater struggle, especially when progress towards it is harder to come by.
Grit and determination is great but this is rarely enough if you really want to achieve...
To achieve you need to connect with the meaning and reason for what you are doing.
Start With WHY
Simon Sinek is best known for making the concept of Knowing Your Why famous.
He describes himself as an, "unshakable optimist" and is the author of the book, 'Start with WHY', as well as having given the third most watched TED talk on this topic.
Sinek comes at the notion of 'why' from an organisational and leadership perspective, but the concept really does apply at an individual level too.
Sinek's model of 'Start with WHY' is very clear.
At the centre of anything we do, the reason WHY has to be central and from this the how we do it and the what we do will arise.
The WHY at the core is a purpose, cause or belief.
It has to be emotive and meaningful.
If your why is merely financial reward or other external rewards that do not have deeper emotive power behind them, then the likelihood is that the motivation will not be deep enough or lasting.
Ultimately, our WHY needs to stem from the deep, limbic areas of our brain.
These brain regions do not understand reason or logic but it is here that our emotions and our fear responses, which are all so powerful at driving our behaviours, are generated.
It is often quoted that 95% of our day to day decisions are guided by our emotions and what feels 'good' in any given moment, while just 5% of the decisions that guide our actions are generated from the higher brain regions, using reason and logic. This statistic might not be entirely accurate, but nevertheless, if you want the best chance that your day to day decisions leading to action steps towards a goal are taken, your underlying WHY needs to be deep and meaningful enough to you or it will be a constant uphill battle fighting between your 'rational' brain and 'emotional' brain!
The limbic brain seeks connection, fulfilment and purpose in driving our behaviours, so you need to ensure you tap into these core values with your goals because when the road to reaching a goal gets bumpy, you will need to understand why you can and will tolerate the hard ride.
When you are deciding on what your WHY is for a goal, it is also valuable to understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors and why for the greatest chance of success, you need to have intrinsic motivation and not just extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation is about your connection with and sense of meaning to the goal. We work hardest towards something when we find it interesting and inherently very satisfying and internally rewarding.
Extrinsic motivation is when we do something to achieve a reward (maybe financial) or to avoid a punishment or achieve another externally valued outcome.
From neuroscience, we know that intrinsic rewards have the greatest impact on providing ongoing motivation towards a goal and connection to it. In an upcoming post, I will explain more about the role of dopamine in motivation and how we can find ways to get this feel good brain chemical working in our favour when we are trying to reach a goal.
In terms of understanding your WHY behind a goal you are working towards, though, it is important to ensure you clarify those deeper, intrinsic motivational factors behind it.
Finding Your WHY
To really tap into and find your why for a goal, it is necessary to ask yourself a few questions:
- Why do you want to focus on this goal and not something else?
- Why is this goal worth the hard work and sacrifice?
- What will achieving this bring to your life?
- What might achieving this goal bring to the life of other people?
- Is this goal a true 'want' for you or is it a 'should do'? (if it is a should then you might need to rethink it!)...
Really explore your WHY and write it all out - get as detailed as you can.
Create an image for yourself of what it will look like and feel like when you have achieved your goal and really allow yourself to explore it in full depth and colour, allowing it to be emotive!
As you make progress towards your goal and the steps start to feel tough or when you want to give up, keep coming back to this WHY. Keep the meaning, purpose and emotions that underlie this goal top of mind so that you find the momentum to keep going.
When you start to see the goal as something you really want to achieve and know WHY and when it stops being just something you 'should do' then it will feel less like hard work and more like (dare I say it) fun!!
Do you want support in creating or clarifying life goals for yourself or do you have life goals or dreams but find it hard to take the steps or overcome obstacles to achieve them?
As a life coach, my work is dedicated to supporting adults who feel stuck, stressed or overwhelmed to create fulfilling and balanced futures for themselves and I would love to work with you too.
To find out more and book a free introductory call with me, please contact me by clicking this link.