The most powerful feeling of being alive is when you have a big vision of how you can contribute to the world and an accompanying sense of an important mission that’s going to leave an impact on this world forever. All masterpieces that were created in the world began with a big vision, and so should your life. As the famous quote goes: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
A strong life vision helps you clarify what you want out of life and helps you focus and push yourself. If you write down your life vision correctly, it should serve you as a roadmap, helping you make your dreams and passions a reality. A life vision is your compass that helps you live life to the full.
However having only a vision isn’t enough. If your vision isn’t powered by a mission, strategy, tactics, motivation, execution and dedication, it’s only an illusion. In order for a vision to really have a lot of power and can help you empower your life, you also need to have a powerful why. Therefor only life vision is not enough, you also need to start with why.
Do you have a vision in life or only an illusion?
When you start managing your life based on a big vision, the first step after having a clear picture of your vision is to ask yourself why. Why would you fight for that vision? Why you? Why do you care? Why does it matter? When you have your powerful why, you become more passionate, more innovative and also progressive in your marketing and communication. You have one more important reason for waking up in the morning.
Let’s look at an example from the business world to learn in detail why having a powerful why is so important.
The golden circle
Simon Sinek wrote the book Start with why that introduces us to the so-called Golden Circle and the concept of why you should always start with why. Only once you have an answer to “why” should you find the answers to the questions “how” and “what”. The general idea is that you have to find your powerful why that gives your life a deeper meaning and makes everything else secondary. A powerful why gets you motivated and enthusiastic, and an enthusiastic person is always personally invested and stays like that much longer. It’s much better to work when you feel that work is your calling rather than just for an incentive.
Now, if we look at the golden circle in more detail, we have three circles:
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- Why? – Describes the mission of a business organization, the core belief of a business. It’s why the business exists. This is where management should start when strategizing.
- How? – Illustrates the way in which “why” is most often achieved, it’s how the business fulfills its core belief. It’s about processes and similar.
- What? – Describes the activities of the business or the organization, it’s what the company does to fulfill their core belief. It’s a product or service that you offer on the market.
“Why” is a belief, “how” is the action you take to realize that belief and “what” is the result of those actions. Of course for the golden circles to work, you have to be consistent in what you say and do.
Are you consistent in what you say and what you do?
Most organizations know their how and what, but only a few organizations have a powerful why, and the latter are usually much more successful, because they have a sense of mission and purpose and that can be seen in their products and services. They don’t just follow their profits as the reason why, instead profits are the consequences of a powerful why. By inspiring others, they establish a following.
The important thing is that as an entrepreneur or manager (or individual as we shall see later), you base all your decisions from inside out of the Golden circle. Everything you do must resonate more with “why” than with “how” and “what”, because no matter how good the rational “what” is, it can’t compete with the emotional “why”. In management practice and successful communication with subordinates it’s therefore really important to explain why something has to be done, not only what has to be done.
The more clearly an organization describes and communicates their why, the more people will like it, and that goes for all stakeholders, especially customers. The truth is that people don’t buy what people make, they buy things for why people make them.
The best thing about having loyal customers in business is that you don’t have to use any marketing tricks and gimmicks, because loyal customers prefer products and services of their favorite business even if they’re not the best or the cheapest among the competitors. “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” Simon Sinek
Therefore, to be really successful in business, you have to first explain why you do what you do, then how you do it and, in the last step, what your products are. Of course having a powerful why must be also incorporated into your marketing message.
Apple is Simon’s perfect example. Their slogan “Think different” talks about their why and their why is challenging the status quo. The how comes next with user-friendly and nicely designed products. Finally, their what are computers, smartphones and other electronic devices.
If you have a powerful why, you have no problem in distinguishing yourself from others – to be different and better. If you have a powerful why, you can definitely innovate more, you can be more authentic and imaginative than your competition, and therefore there’s no need for imitation.
A business with a powerful why is also able to attract the best employees, and enthusiastic employees are the most powerful resource that any business can have. The main reason for that is because a powerful why enforces a strong feeling of trust and loyalty, it brings people who believe in the cause together.
There are two ways of influencing human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it, and inspiring others works so much better, be it your customers, employees or other stakeholders. The same goes for yourself. You want to act out of a sense of mission and inspiration, not trick yourself into doing work with incentives only.
A powerful why also brings the power to really lead people using charisma; people don’t follow you only because they have to, but because they want to. As Simon explains, charisma has nothing to do with energy, but comes from a strong and clear why. It comes from a strong inspiring belief in an ideal bigger than oneself. Energy, on the other hand, comes from a good night’s sleep. Energy can excite others, but only charisma can really inspire people. You have to win hearts before you can win minds.
One important thing from Simon Sinek’s book is that in order for values and guiding principles to be truly effective, they have to be verbs. You must communicate your why exclusively with verbs. By communicating your why with verbs, you give everyone a clear idea of how to act in any situation. It’s not “integrity”, it’s “always do the right thing”. It’s not “innovation”, it’s “look at the problem from a different angle”.
Putting your feelings into words is very hard, that’s why you have a hard time explaining why you love your spouse or your parents or your siblings. You have a gut feeling that something feels right, but if you want to put it into words, you have to rationalize it. The same thing happens when a decision feels right but you have a hard time explaining why you did what you did.
The reason for that is because decision-making and the ability to explain those decisions exist in different parts of the brain. A gut decision happens in the limbic brain, which is also responsible for feelings. That is why when you communicate with others from your powerful why, you’re talking directly to the part of their brain that controls decision-making, so they have a gut feeling to make the right decision. As a consequence, the language part of the brain allows them to rationalize the gut feeling decision.
In the long-term, the hardest part isn’t finding your why, but staying true to it and keeping it alive. Find your why and you’ll always be fulfilled in your work. As you can probably see, the same concept can be used in almost all areas of personal life.
Having a powerful “why” in personal life and a sense of mission
All the people I know in my life and are really passionate about something, be it work or a cause they’re fighting for or something else, have a powerful why. The same concept that’s valid for organizations is also valid for your personal life: especially work, but also all other areas. Before you decide what you’ll do in life and how you’ll achieve it, you must have a powerful why.
- Why would you fight for something?
- Why would you invest your time and other resources?
- Why does it matter to you?
A powerful why will give you a sense of mission, excitement and value. It’s something that drives you through all the obstacles you encounter in life. A powerful why motivates you when you wake up in the morning and encourages you to read and think before you go to sleep. Having a powerful why definitely contributes to happiness and quality of life.
Here are just some of the benefits of having a powerful why in your personal life:
- You feel more alive and valuable
- You have no problem with prioritizing tasks
- You can connect more easily and communicate with people much more passionately
- You enjoy the work you do
- You can innovate and be creative much more easily
- You can really have an impact on the world and change it
- You can inspire other people to work with you
- You are a more charismatic and energetic person and probably happier as well
Let’s look at two examples.
It’s not enough that you just want to be healthy. What’s your burning desire for why you want to be fit? Is it to have more energy, to look good in the mirror, to have more dating options, do you want to do sports with your children etc. You need to have a powerful why to change your lifestyle regarding diet and exercise. Just a shallow “it would be good to have” won’t do, you need something that drives you to stay disciplined day by day.
- What? I want to have a body for Men’s Health cover and I want to be able to run a marathon.
- How? I will follow a strict diet and exercise routine.
- Why? I want to be attractive to women and be proud of my body. (simplified example)
You just want to have enough money in life. That isn’t enough, you need a more powerful why. You want to be wealthy to buy yourself a nice home, for example? That’s cool. But you need a more powerful why. Why do you want to have an expensive home, where would it be, how would it look, what would you do there? Find an ad for your dream home and put it some place visible. Imagine what you would do there and make sure it motivates you to fight; if it doesn’t, it’s not the right why.
Many people want to be wealthy to be free and that’s their powerful why. Others want to be rich to realize dozens of their ideas, since money makes things happen. Yet others want money to get women or to protect and provide the best for their family. No matter which why, it must be so powerful and strong that it motivates you to focus every day.
- What? I want to have 10,000,000€ of net worth.
- How? I will make money by being an entrepreneur.
- Why? I want to be financially independent so I can dedicate my time and resources to altruism. (simplified example)
Finding your powerful why
Finding your powerful why shouldn’t be that hard. First, think about your life vision. Think about who you want to become, what you want to experience in life and what kind of a legacy you want to leave behind. You only live once, so think carefully. There’s no second chances.
Then ask yourself “why” for every single thing that’s part of your vision. If you don’t have a powerful why behind one of the bullets on your vision list, it shouldn’t be on your list at all. When you think about something you want to achieve (vision) and you feel your emotion getting engaged (why) you’re on the right track.
Usually you get emotional about things connected to your childhood or important moments that had changed your thinking. Maybe you understand something that others don’t, maybe you want to change the world or create a masterpiece so people would understand you better. Maybe you feel that God has chosen you for something. A powerful why often comes from your skills and, of course, even more from your values and beliefs.
If you write down your powerful why and it makes you cry, you’ve hit the sweet spot. Until that happens, you should learn more about yourself, about who you are, what you’re able to achieve and try again. I have faith in you. One tear, nothing more ;)