Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.


What’s Your WHY - Your Reason for Doing What You Do?
by Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.


Why don’t goals always work? Goals can be helpful but often they are dry, boring, and lifeless. As a result, after setting a goal it is easy to lose motivation for pursuing it, and the goal often ends up not being accomplished. This is why it is important to have a compelling WHY. A WHY is your reason for living and getting up everyday. It provides the motivation, drive, energy and passion for doing whatever you need to do to achieve your WHY and make it a reality. By identifying and crafting a meaningful WHY for yourself, your WHY can serve as an inspiration to help you choose the daily activities which best support you living your most fulfilling life.


It’s January and the perfect time for clarifying your compelling WHY. It’s that time during which we traditionally take stock of where we are and what we want to improve in our lives during the coming year. The New Year brings with it the ritual of creating New Year’s Resolutions. Resolution means, “The formal expression of opinion or intention,” or “The process of determining upon a course of action.” Based on these definitions, making a resolution sounds about as exciting as writing a “letter of opinion” to the local newspaper or deciding to sit down and study for a test. Where is the excitement and passion? No wonder then that only 40 percent of those who set New Year’s Resolutions fulfill them. Most people who do not fulfill their Resolutions create good excuses such as, “I didn’t have enough time,” or “Unexpected things came up that I had to take care of,” etc. Other people don’t even set New Year’s resolutions. From their perspective this must feel very safe and smart. After all, if you don’t set the goal or Resolution then you can’t fail. Can you? Whether you set Resolutions and don’t keep them, or don’t set them at all, ask yourself this: How does it feel to review your life and realize that you are in pretty much the same place you were last year?


Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, what is more helpful and exciting is clarify your WHY. Your WHY is your reason for living a focused and meaningful life. Having a clearly defined WHY adds passion and enthusiasm into your life. If you don’t have passion, enthusiasm and energy ask yourself, “Are the choices I make and the actions I take on a daily basis supporting my WHY?”  If not, are you sure that you are living the life that you want to be living? Whose life are you living if it is not the one that you want and create for yourself?


To help clarify your WHY, it is helpful to clarify what matters most to you. This is your motivation for getting out of bed in the morning. What excites you? What gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing? If nothing comes to you right away, use the rocking chair visualization. Imagine that you are sitting in a rocking chair in your living room when you are 105 years old. What have you accomplished in your life? What has been most meaningful to you? What legacy will you leave behind when you die? Another way to clarify your WHY is to ask yourself, “If my life were more satisfying, what would be different about my life?” Think about different areas of your life that may be important to you: family, friends, community, your health, your work, or your finances. To clarify your WHY decide how you would like to enhance a particular area of your life. Then ask yourself “Why?” after each answer you come up with. For example, if you decide that your WHY is “I, want to have an extra $100,000,” make this more specific. Enrich your WHY to state, “I want to have an extra $100,000 so that I can easily pay for my child to go to college. By having the chance to go to college, I hope that my child can have more opportunities than I had.” If your WHY is “I want to lose 20 pounds,” enhance this WHY. It might be, “I want to lose 20 pounds so that I feel happier when I look at myself in the mirror and I have more energy to keep up with my grandkids.”


Once you have your WHY, make it a part of your life on a daily basis. Making your WHY rich and vivid in your imagination will keep you excited about sticking to the tasks and activities you chose on a daily basis to reach your WHY. To inspire yourself, cut out pictures of the car you want to buy, the colleges you would like your child to be able to attend, or the sunset you would like to see when you travel to  Greece. Writing your WHY in the form of an affirmation can be helpful. You might write, “I am enjoying being at my ideal weight and having so much energy.” Visualize yourself everyday doing what you will be doing once you accomplish your WHY. Enrich your visualization with details. Ask yourself questions such as, “Where am I living now that I have accomplished my WHY?” “What kinds of activities am I doing?” “With whom am I spending time?” Next, take these pictures and affirmations and post them where you will see them on a daily basis. Putting them in your bathroom, on the ceiling above your bed, and in your car will keep your WHY fresh and present in your consciousness.


Goals are helpful, but often lack meaning and vitality. By clarifying what is most important to you and creating your WHY, the choices that you make on a daily basis will be more likely to keep you focused on activities that support you in fulfilling your WHY and creating the life you desire.


© 2007 Deborah Barnett