Too many entrepreneurs confuse their “why” with their “what,” which stagnates growth and makes it easy to feel unworthy of their own success.
When I interview entrepreneurs and ask them about why they do the work they do, they typically give me a carefully curated “I help” sentence that sounds something like this: “So that I can help [insert audience] create [insert results].”
It ends there, and even though this sounds good in theory, I’m still left waiting for the answer to the question I asked.
Don’t get me wrong: Something along the lines of “I want to empower women to build purpose-filled businesses” is a noble vision.
But it’s not your “why.” At best, it’s your “who,” and, at worst, it’s your “what.”
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Tying your sense of purpose to external circumstances creates an endless cycle of disappointment
Too many entrepreneurs confuse their “why” with their “what.” This is problematic because by tying your sense of purpose to external circumstances, you’re creating an endless cycle in which you’re only worthy if you’ve successfully helped a certain group of people attain certain results.
While helping X amount of people and exceeding your KPIs are a wonderful thing, don’t let this be the primary way that you’re measuring why you do what you do.
What happens if you launch a product, and it doesn’t do well? If you didn’t grow your business as anticipated this year? Or you try to help someone with the best of intentions, but you don’t succeed? Does that mean that you’ve failed?
Your ego might tell you that you did, and if you don’t have a clear enough “why” and are confusing it with the external “what” and “who,” you might just believe it.
Do you want to wake up every day with a fire under you, thinking you have to help other people and meet your KPIs, or else you’re a failure? Or would you rather help others and thrive because you want to, and it naturally fills your cup?
It’s important to periodically check in with your “why” and ask yourself whether you’re helping the people from your “I help” statement because you can and want to or because you have a sense of obligation that you “have” to if you don’t want to be judged or considered a failure.
So many people drive themselves into the ground pursuing what they think they have to … even entrepreneurs who started out by doing what they love. The moment the work becomes an obligation rather than a heart-led purpose, many well-meaning entrepreneurs lose their spark of joy.
So, the question remains: Why are you so intrinsically motivated to help this group of people that you call your audience? Why do you wake up every morning to do this work?
Your “why” is a deeply rooted feeling
Most people don’t know that your “why” is a deeply rooted feeling that lives in your limbic brain, which controls emotions and doesn’t have the capacity for language.
Your “why” doesn’t need a deadline, accolades or metrics — it’s all about how you want to feel on a daily basis. You will only truly be successful when you feel that way; otherwise, you’ll stay stuck in a hamster wheel of looking for more things, money and recognition to fill in the gaps.
So, how do you create a rock-solid “why” that will take your brand to the next level?
⚫ Disentangle your “what” from your “why.” If you haven’t already, get very clear on what you do, whom you serve and how you help your audience. Your “what” is your vision and contribution to the world. It shows up as your offers, services and products and in the transformation you deliver to your ideal audience.
⚫ Dig deep to find your real “why.” Now, ask the deeper question: Why do I do this independently of how much money it makes, the validation I get or the people I help? Imagine you’re on a desert island. If there were no Instagram, no email marketing, no one to prove yourself to — why would you do what you do? Your “why” is how you want to feel on a daily basis.
⚫ Get clear on what living your “why” looks like. Now that you’ve identified your “why,” independent of anyone or anything else, imagine living it every day in your business. What does this look like — how do you feel, and what do you do differently? You’ll notice that, given this new perspective, you may need to make some changes to reenergize your brand and feel aligned with your next steps.
In short, your “why” is your commitment to the high vibrational emotional state you want to be in as you execute on your “what” for no other reason than that it brings you joy, fulfillment, contribution or whatever else it is that you want to invite more of into your life.
When you learn to live into your “why” daily, independent of your “what,” you’ll have more energy and enthusiasm to channel into that “what,” and as a result, you will inevitably help others and hit your goals anyway.
The best part? When you approach your work from this space, no one but you will get to determine the metrics of your success.
“What” you do is only a fraction of why you do it. When you stay connected to your deeper “why” no matter what’s going on around you, there are no limits to the influence and impact you can create in people’s lives.
Originally published in Entrepreneur.
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