Do Your Know Your Why?

Many of us go to company-related conferences or meetings designed to inspire or offer an opportunity to re-calibrate our efforts towards meeting the mark. We will meet new colleagues and spend time re-connecting with others. As a result of team building, good food, entertainment, and a new emphasis on the company vision, we go back to our home space ready to meet the world. Like the New Years Resolution, the promise to carry our group to new heights is the Goal as we re-enter the trenches. This time will be different, just like beginning at midnight on January 1st. Somehow, we are going to turn everything in on time, with no mistakes, and get more accomplished in less time because we hear a word of encouragement. We see some of our colleagues honored with well-deserved recognitions and honors. We promise that next year, it will be us on that stage. No, we reason, it is not about the awards but If They Can, Why Can’t I? We make quite a few promises that this time will be different. There is one important consideration as we make this push towards a career-changing outcome.

Why is this time going to be different? Why, after countless and seemingly futile attempts to cross the ball over the goal line, is this time the one? Why should we believe ourselves because, let’s face it, we have previously been in this position? This is familiar territory. We were ready to hook up with this better version of ourselves only to be ditched after a few days or maybe weeks. Sometimes, we are dumped after a few hours. Why?

“When you know your Why, you will begin to find and make a Way”

During a recent company meeting, the theme was an important one towards where our company is headed. However, what struck me was the overriding level of importance to determine the Why. The leadership, in addition to discussing an overall Why in identifying a level of inner being, challenged our answers with one simple question, Why? There are superficial, just above the surface responses that require absolutely no thought or buy in. However, upon answering the question, they responded with a follow-up question, “Why do you feel that way?” A follow-up response did not fully cut it with the presenter. They asked the follow-up question, “Why”? Now, this can really put someone on the spot. It can be uncomfortable or at the very least awkward. While nothing new to some, this new- found deep dive causes someone to really come to grips as to better understanding Why they feel a certain way.

Perhaps there is some sort of limiting belief holding us from realizing our full potential.

One of the more sobering thoughts is the lack of depth some are willing to go in trying to understand and fully feel Why they do some of what they do. Go back to when we were kids. In case that is too far back, think back to when your kids were 5-7. Every time we told them to do something, their response was Why? Now, if your kids were like mine, they would repeat the same Why question at least 4 times. I see a similar concept here. What they were doing, besides perhaps providing a bit of frustration, was forcing us to go deep as to why we were making such a request. The key here is to go below the comfortable surface and force yourself to really re-confirm or re-commit to the reasons behind your position.  What further struck me as the key take away was how asking ourselves Why 3-4 times might reveal certain truths we do not fully understand or know is inside of us. Perhaps there is some sort of limiting belief holding us from realizing our full potential. Further, is it possible that this exercise might cause us to realize that what we are currently doing;

  1. Is more important to someone else than to us?
  2. Is not alignment with our truth?
  3. Is perhaps the direction suggested and reinforced by our family and friends growing up?
  4. Is allowing a new truth to come to the surface due to this uncomfortable yet reviving introspection?
  5. Is tolerating something that is outside our passion or gift?
  6. Is opening the door to a new and passionate direction in our lives?

I remember a clip with 2011 NBA Player of the Year Jalen Rose repeatedly asking, “Why not Him?” when asked if he should be considered the MVP of the league. I did not take his comments to be arrogant in the least. My thinking is that he had pulled back the layers of Why as he continued to reach within night overnight during a long season to produce MVP results. The same holds true in our own lives. A good number of us will write down a few goals early in the year. Some are easy to accomplish, some may stretch us, while others are seemingly elusive based on our current actions. Some of the more popular might look like this.

✔︎ I want to lose weight this year

✔︎ I want to earn more money

✔︎ I want to get out of debt

✔︎ I want to get in shape

✔︎ I want to stop smoking

✔︎ I want to write a book.

✔︎ I want a promotion at work

✔︎ I want to……..   Fill in the blank

Now, these are above the surface, easy to write, admirable, and comfortable goals. If they remain in the current form, we have a 95% chance of failure. Why? Well, I am so glad you asked.

Never mind, for the moment, that they are non- specific or there was no real thought associated in the declaration. All of us want to make more money. That is practically a universal desire. However, the difference between those who wish for it and those who receive it is based on fully knowing, feeling, and answering the Why question. Of course, most people want to lose weight, get in better shape, and enjoy a better work and personal life balance. However, there is an important distinction between those who remain the same (or even gain) compared to those who actually make it happen. In my view, desire is important. We do have to really want a better result in the various aspects of our lives. Absolutely, we need to get started and take decisive action. “Faith without works is Dead.” Yes, we must finish what we start or we will continue to run around aimlessly. However, the single most important strategy towards reaching our goals is to know the Why behind it.

Action steps are key so that we can navigate the path necessary to get where we want to go.  However, even these action steps must be reinforced by a clear sense of “Why” we need to take them. The one thing that will always join us in our journey is two brothers that I call Adversity and Setbacks.  They could be twins as they act quite a bit alike.  However, they will be uninvited guests and quite frankly, expect VIP status. They will expect a great deal of your time, focus, and submission.  Knowing your Why is the equalizer towards overcoming those things that will get in your way. Our Why will allow us to confront, move around, and pass thru those situations that will stop others in their tracks and send them backward. Our clear and unconditional pursuit towards whatever success looks like in our own lives begins with knowing our Why.

Every day provides a fresh 24.  We have a clear canvas towards how we spend the allocated time within the day.  Knowing the Why behind the What allows us to achieve so much more.  It will prove to be more fulfilling, stimulating, and beneficial as we navigate our steps thru the Distractions, Delays, and Disappointment during the journey. Progress is not Pretty and it is certainly not Perfect.  Progress is taking the necessary steps to improve upon yesterday as we position ourselves towards a better tomorrow. By asking ourselves Why we keep ourselves on track towards hitting the mark in whatever we set out to achieve.

To Better Understanding Your Why.


Chris Adams
Chris Adams
CHRIS has over 30 years in the Hospitality Industry serving in a number of emerging and diverse roles. His specialty has been in the area of Staff Development, Organizational Enhancements, Task Force Management, and Public Relations. He has worked for several brands such as Sheraton, Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, and several Independents. An advocate for strong community relationships, Adams has served on numerous boards and Non-Profits in an effort to bridge certain gaps towards better understanding and inclusion for all. Additionally, Adams serves as a Legal Task Force Consultant assisting Law Firms in developing case positions via mock juries, selection, and development of media strategies. These efforts have provided further strength towards mediation and successful case resolutions

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  1. Great points Chris. ‘Why?’ is an excellent starting point as it lies at the heart of mindfulness. In my research in human motivation I have found however that it evokes a cognitive response – making it more challenging to recognize and get past the biases that filter our answers (and results in many failed resolutions).

    You might find that combining why with where – as in ‘where do you find real purpose and meaning in what you do’ is a powerful mix. The ‘where’ question taps into our affective, emotional brain. Answering ‘where do you find purpose?’ requires examining the themes that comprise the narrative of our lives – our inner theater. In reflecting upon why we made the choices and decisions that resulted in our themes helps people understand how they got to where they are, and better positions them for developing the habits they’ll need to go somewhere new.

  2. And starting with why has been my underlying idea since I saw Simon Sinek give his TED talk, Chris! I ask it of myself, and I ask it of those writers who want me to work on their ideas, especially when the ideas add up to … not much.

    Why write it? Why did you think it was important? Why did you think people would care?

    Why do I do what I do? Why should anyone give a rat’s rump? (And why am I hearing “do be do be do” ringing in my ears? Ah, Sinatra. Strangers in the Night.)

    Thanks for pointing out all the ways that asking why helps and not asking doesn’t.