The why before the how

I recently had the opportunity to play golf with a good friend of mine who is a successful business leader. He’s the kind of guy you can look up to: he’s a family man with a clear purpose in life, and he makes others feel better about themselves on the way to changing their lives for the better.

As we strolled down the rolling fairways of his home course, our conversation turned to our goals we were working towards and what we were doing to achieve our goals.

The conversation became a little bit awkward because I had to admit that I didn’t really have clear goals for my life. I had made goals in the past, no doubt, but like the leaves that fall from the trees in autumn, my goals were there for a season and had fallen to the ground.

This has been the pattern of my life, and I’m sure for many others, as well. We have great intentions, we are great starters, but we are poor finishers.

Ever notice how the poor finishers often wish their life was more like the strong finishers? We just can’t quite seem to get the job done, and we make excuses, or as I call them “explanations”, as to why we were unable to finish strong.

Then my friend laid out a principle that took him all of 30 seconds to say, and it had resonated in my mind every day for the past two weeks. He said, “You have to figure out your purpose in life before you decide what you will do. Once you know your ‘why’, the ‘how’ is easy.”

I realized in that moment that my life was void of a “why”, and I had spent the past three years working on the how to no avail.

Don’t get me wrong; many of our “whys” in life we gain by default (i.e. we marry so we need to be a great spouse, we have kids so we need to be great parents, etc.), and we need to embrace these “why’s” with passion. What I am talking about is an occupational “why” that gets you out of bed in the morning and motivates you all day every day to pursue excellence.

He recommended a book to help me figure out the “why”, and I will be picking that up at my local library this week. Most importantly, I will be spending the next few weeks and months nailing down my “why”, and I’m really excited about that.

By the way, what is your why?

I’ve been told that once you know your “why”, you can answer this question without thinking or hesitation. How’d you do? Maybe it’s time for you to join me in discovering the purpose for your life.


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