If you have your why for life, you can get by with almost any how. —Friedrich Nietzsche
In the path of life, our motivations often lurk beneath the surface, awaiting discovery. Today, I present a simple yet profound tool—an elegant one-word question—that has the power to uncover your true motivations for anything you care to do.
The One-Word Question: Why?
At the heart of this exploration is a single, potent word—why. While it may seem elementary, the question isn’t just simple, but effective, inviting us to probe deeper into the layers of our desires and ambitions. Borrowed from the concept of the “Five Whys” in root cause analysis, this technique is not just for engineers; it’s a key to unlocking the core of our motivations.
The Journey Begins: Identifying the Goal
To embark on this introspective journey, identify a significant goal or aspiration that occupies your thoughts. Whether it’s financial success, career advancements, or personal achievements, choose a focal point that resonates with your ambitions. What is something you want to change, do, or achieve?
Peeling Back the Layers: The Why Drill-Down
Start with your chosen goal and ask yourself, “Why is this important to me?” Your initial response might be clear and immediate. If, for instance, your goal is to earn a specific amount of money, the first “why” could be to provide for your family comfortably.
Iterative Why: Digging Deeper
The magic lies in the iterative process. Take each answer you uncover and ask why again. If providing for your family is crucial, ask why that, in itself, is important. This recursive questioning peels back layers, revealing the profound motivations hidden beneath the surface.
As you persist in asking “why,” you’ll reach a point where the answers transition from external goals to intrinsic values. These intrinsic motivations are the jewels of your inner world—freedom, flexibility, the joy of providing opportunities for loved ones.
Reflecting on my own journey, the initial goal of financial success transformed into a desire for freedom, not tethered by constant financial concerns. This process helped me connect with the intrinsic motivations that propel me forward.
Don’t be afraid to take multiple paths/branches in this exercise. Sometimes you’ll have multiple answers to one of your iterations and you can see where each of them leads.
Empowering Through Intrinsic Motivation
Uncovering these intrinsic motivations is not just an intellectual exercise; it’s a tool for empowerment. Knowing why something is important to you at a fundamental level provides a huge amount of intrinsic motivation. This newfound clarity becomes a guiding force, propelling you through challenges with purpose and intention.
Additionally, the one-word question, “why,” helps us on our journey of self-discovery. By peeling back the layers of your aspirations, you can uncover the intrinsic motivations that fuel your actions. Armed with this clarity, you gain not only a deeper understanding of yourself but also a powerful source of motivation to navigate the complexities of life with purpose and intention.
Watch more in the video below: