Life Purpose

Know your Purpose, your Why

The idea of wanting and needing to know our life purpose, our 'Why', has been around since ancient times

Do you know what drives you to do what you do with intention and passion?

Aristotle taught that all things, natural and artificial, had some level of purpose, or end goal, towards being ‘good’ and doing well. 

Carl Jung argued that the purpose to life was Individuation – the process that a person goes through to develop from an unconscious to a conscious individual, towards self-actualisation.

The famous self-help author Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich, 1936) introduced the concept of ‘Definite Major Purpose’ as a way to prompt people to think about their ultimate goal in life, by asking themselves ‘In what do I truly believe?

In more recent times, Simon Sinek popularized the concept of WHY in his first TED Talk in 2009, where he introduced the Golden Circle and how the greatest leaders and organizations think, act and communicate. His 2019 book Start With Why started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in turn inspire their colleagues and customers.

. . . but we say, Start with What.

More on this later, but before that we need to discuss Purpose and Why in some more detail.


The benefits of knowing your Purpose

  • To get to your Purpose, you need to get past What first.

What you are, what drives you, what your are good and not so good at, what makes you tick.

This increases your self awareness and emotional intelligence

  • Improved well-being.

The satisfaction of knowing your purpose drives self confidence, which helps your personal well-being 

  • Knowing what goals and actions to take.
Without Purpose we can easily fall into someone else’s plans. Purpose gives us our own plans, goals and actions.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn


Use Why! (noun). . . not Why? (adverb)

Using the word Why can cause confusion, and I think that Purpose is actually a better word to use. But Why has become the favoured term, thanks mainly to Simon Sinek.

So the answer is in the use of the English language. ‘Why’ is mostly commonly used as an adverb in a question, such as “Why did I do that?“, “Why do I do the things I do?“. But the answer to these questions are very complicated, and not what we are seeking when it comes to knowing our life purpose. These questions are more related to finding out about What & Who you are.

For our life purpose we need to use ‘Why’ as a NOUN, such as “That is why I love to do what I do” . . . as a statement. As an exclamation “!”


Put it in writing

You don’t even need to use the word Why to describe your Why, your Purpose. 

Try using the following sentence structure.

‘To {my contribution} so that {my impact}’ 

Such as . . .

‘To be a good father figure, so that my children grow and develop feeling secure and confident in life.

This concept is taken from here – Dean Bokhari – Find your why

Putting your thoughts into words can be hard, but it really does help to clarify your thoughts. 


Write a Purpose statement for every life area

For every one of your Life Areas (family, health, work, spiritual, money, growth, etc), have a think about what really drives you to do what you do, what you want to become and what inspires you. This will take some time – days, weeks – but the outcome will be fantastic.

More examples in Life Areas

  • To live a healthy life, so that I can physically live life to the full.’
  • ‘To pay attention to my mental health & wellbeing, so that I can care for those around me.’
  • ‘To ensure my employability remains high at all times, so that I chose who I work for . . . and determine the salary I want.’


We say . . . Start with What, not Why

While Simon Sinek’s concept of Start with Why is aimed at business leaders and individuals, it is also very tempting to apply it to our personal life – our life outside of work and business.

However . . . in our personal life we should not Start with Why.

We need to start with WHAT.


  • Because the concept of Start with Why is about “How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”. 

The concept is not about your personal life, it is aimed squarely at business

  • In his TED Talk Simon Sinek notes that all business already know their What and How, but are not clear on their Why.

Yes, to stay in business they need to. But many of us just don’t know our What.

We can survive, but we can’t thrive without knowing What we are.

  • Even in one of his videos, Simon Sinek tells us about his online course to discover your Why – “The course is designed to help people understand what makes them tick and what drives them and what inspires them“. 

Which sounds like we need to start with What

  • Start with Why is about inspiring others, about selling a business vision to others. 

Your purpose, your Why! is for you to know and inspire yourself


Your What comes from Self Awareness

Knowing what & who we are is the foundation of so much in life. Your personal development, your emotional intelligence, your well-being, your employability, your family life, your personal fulfilment.

In our Self Awareness channel we discuss more on What and Who we are. 

Ikigai – Japanese for ‘a reason for being’

If you want to start out by finding one overall life purpose, or reason for being, try the Ikigai tool. Answer these 4 questions (yes, all WHAT questions)

  • What do you love?
  • What are you good at?
  • What can you be paid for?
  • What does the world need?

. . . and the intersection of these questions will help you find your . . .

  • Passion
  • Mission
  • Profession
  • Vocation

The intersection of these is Ikigai, your reason for being.

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