How to Add Fuel to Your Fire: Define Your “Why”

Written by on 14 Oct 2015

A couple weeks ago, I shared the advice I received from my friend, Will.


Will reached out to me with a piece (or rather, a whole pie) of information about how to achieve anything you want in life. Thankfully, he and I were able to boil that fire hydrant of his down to five specific steps.


You might remember this from last week:


How to Accomplish Anything In Life


  1. Know the needle you want to move.
  2. Know why you intend to move that needle.
  3. Know where you want the needle to go.
  4. Know how to move that dang needle.


And most importantly…


  1. Do the things that move that dang needle!


Put even more simply:


  1. Choose a goal.
  2. Define your “why”.
  3. Determine what “winning” looks like.
  4. Figure out what you need to do to move closer to that goal.


And of course, most importantly…




Last week, we dug a little deeper into that advice by talking about Step One: Choose a goal.


As you remember, this was no ordinary goal-setting session.


Rather than setting what have come to be known at SMART goals, I challenged you to set, what I like to call, stupid goals.


Crazy goals.


Outlandish goals.


Big, hairy, audacious goals.


More specifically, goals that are just “cool” to you and your life.


And I asked you to commit to that goal for the next 5 weeks while we go through this exercise.


So no matter what your goal is, and even if it might change in the future, just hang on to it for now so you can get the process down and use it on a different goal, later.


The whole idea is to choose something that may even be scary to you because then you know:


  1. It matters.
  2. It’s big enough.
  3. It’s worth chasing.


If you haven’t chosen a goal yet, go back to the previous post and take a look at some of my suggestions. Put those over the context of your own life, and commit to something with us for the next five weeks. Once you have it, c’mon back, and start here.


So now that you have your very “cool" BHAG, what’s next?


In the words made famous most-recently by Simon Sinek, we have to define our “why.”


Our “why” is our reason for being. Our belief, our dream, our hope.


And there are actually two mini-steps within this step of defining your “why”. First, you need to know why defining your “why” is so important. Then, you need to actually define it for yourself.


Both mini-steps are important.


If you don’t understand the why behind the “why” (yes, I realize that’s sooooo meta), then you will skip over this step completely. And that would be a shame, because it’s actually one of the most vital.


Knowing your “why” is invaluable for many reasons.


  1. It aligns with our biology.


If you take a look at the human brain, you’ll find that it’s broken into three basic sections: the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain.


The forebrain includes our neo-cortex, the newest part of the brain. This section corresponds with what many may call our higher brain functions such as rational thought, analysis, and language. This was the section involved in actively choosing your BHAG in Step One.


The midbrain and hindbrain include our limbic system. This section corresponds with much older functions that drove our behavior and decision-making long before we had the capacity for language such as feelings and emotions.


Yes, that means the part of the brain that makes decisions is separate from the part of the brain that actively thinks and speaks.


Cue mind-blow.


But if we use that to our advantage, it means that if you align your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you can drive your behavior toward a common goal. Defining your “why” allows you to create that internal alignment.


  1. It carries you through the struggles.


People who don’t care that much about something will quit when it gets hard.


It’s that simple.


Knowing your “why” gives you fuel for the journey.


I can’t promise you much, but I can promise you this: Things. Will. Get. Hard.


(You're not allowed to giggle here.)


But seriously, it’s inevitable. What’s not inevitable, is your reaction to the struggle.


If you have a great “why” to lean on when things get tough, you have a better chance of living to fight another day.


  1. It gives proof for your actions.


Adding intention to your actions somehow makes them seem less crazy.


Wanna jump out of an airplane? Makes total sense when you’re researching adrenaline and you want to capture more of it in your everyday life.


Wanna spend a week in a dark meditation room with no human interaction? Makes total sense when you’re discerning your next step in life and want to align your intentions with your deeper thoughts.


Wanna sell all your possessions and take a trip around the world? Makes total sense when you value adventure and you want to do things in life before you’re incapable of doing them well.


These proofs are almost more important when we’re rationalizing to ourselves rather than to other people.


Trust me.


  1. It brings others to our aid.


Simon Sinek said, “We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.”


He also said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”


If you’re ever hoping to elicit help from someone else on your journey, you have a much better chance convincing them to hitch their star to your bandwagon (yes, I’m aware that’s a mixed metaphor) if you can sell them on the “why” instead of the “what.”


People will follow you to the ends of the earth if they believe what you believe.


And they won’t even be doing it for you.


They will be doing it for themselves.


  1. It can’t be wrong.


This is the greatest one of all.


Your fuel can’t possibly be wrong. There is no wrong answer here.


It might be the first time in your life that someone has allowed you to think this, so I’ll say it again.


It doesn’t matter what your real intention is, as long as it adds fuel.


You don’t have to define your “why” with anyone or anything else in mind. It has to be real. It has to be authentic. It has to add fuel.


It does not have to be “right.”


So I ask you then…


What is it?!


What’s the intent? What’s the fuel? What’s your “why”?


What belief will you align with your goals?


What dream will carry you through the struggles?


What mission will help you rationalize your seemingly crazy choices?


What vision will bring others to your aid?


And what hope will you choose that cannot possibly be wrong?


What’s your “why”?


You don’t have to answer all of these. Just answer one. And my friend, you will have your why.


Share it in the comments below, and let’s keep this journey rocking.

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  1. Suzanne McLennan   On   14 Oct 2015 at 6:56 pm

    This is the first time I have realized that I don’t have to have the right answer. My goal doesn’t have to be right or family and/or career oriented and that furthermore my goal can be frivolous and selfish. My goal is to travel and volunteer in some capacity in Africa. Thanks for leading me!

    • tracy   On   14 Oct 2015 at 7:18 pm

      Beautiful, Suzanne! Thank you for sharing your goal and your lovely realization. Keep that intention alive, and keep working hard towards it!

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