Josh Clark
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Know Your Why

When you know your WHY, you can find your WAY.

Do you know your WHY? I hope you do. Because if you don't, it will be difficult to find your way. 

And I know what it is to feel like you've lost your way.

It was a sunny winter morning in Southern California, and I was packing up my office after a whirlwind 120 days had left me unemployed and uncertain of my future. 

Just three years earlier, my family and I had packed up our lives and moved some 2,100 miles from ATL to SoCal to lead a church. We knew it would be an adventure. But we had no idea how much this three-year leg of our journey would shape our lives and our future.

Just five months before that winter morning, I had publicly celebrated the fact that our pace of growth qualified us as one of the 100 fastest growing churches in America (with over 1,000 in attendance). We were excited that our church was growing and affecting positive change in individuals and our community. Now, shorter than you can say the words "church politics," I was out as the lead pastor of the church. 

Many of the leadership lessons I share today crystallized in that season. Unfortunately, those lessons were pretty costly to my family, some outstanding people, and the momentum of a pretty good church. 

Someday soon, I'll write more about my failures in that season. They weren't moral or financial failures. They were leadership failures. Failures that have led me to where I am today. Failures for which I am grateful and willing to share. But that's another post.

The purpose of today's post is to help you discover your WHY. You see, almost five years ago, on that sunny, winter morning, I didn't know what I would do next or how I would do it. You could say I had lost my way.

But there was one thing I did know. I knew WHY I would do it.

I knew that whatever I did, it would be something that Inspired Leaders to Pursue their Personal Highest and Best. Now I didn't say it this way back then. I used to verbalize my why like this, "Empowering others to live authentic lives of deep impact."

I expressed it differently back then, but it was essentially the same WHY. Knowing my WHY is what allowed me to find my way.

If you know your WHY, you'll find your WAY.

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Since that day five years ago, my WHY has inspired me to challenge thousands with my speaking. It has allowed me to help other leaders in their journey. And most recently, to lead an Inc. 5,000 tech company to and through a strategic exit. Today, my WHY causes me to encourage you in yours. 

I want you to be as excited about your future as I am about mine. For that to be true, you need to be confident of your WHY.

If you are unsure of your WHY or are in a season where you want to refine it, here are two questions that have helped me with my WHY.

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1) How does my story inform me?

Ask, How does my story inform me

Look back at your life and ask, "How does my story inform me?"

In his book, "Start with Why," Simon Sinek states, "finding your why is a process of discovery, not invention." (If you haven't read this resource, I highly recommend it.)

I agree with Simon, your why will not come from looking forward at what you want to achieve. Rather, your why will come from looking back at your life's story. 

That's why, in my Life Planning practice, I spend almost a full day with a client building perspective. First, we invest hours clarifying where they are today. Then, we identify every significant turning point in their life history and chart its impact on each life domain. 

At the end of our first day, my client has a compelling, visual collage of their life's turning points in chronological order. This exercise allows them to look back on their life from a macro level. From this vantage point, we ask the question, "How does my story inform me?" 

You may not be in a position to invest in a facilitated Life Plan. But here are some key questions to ask as you look back on your life.

  • How have I consistently added value to others?
  • What patterns can I see?
  • Looking back, what is consistently missing?
  • What are the "aha" moments of my life?

Answering these questions, then mining the answers for clues to your WHY is invaluable.

You won't find your WHY in a self-help book. You won't find your WHY through market research or interviewing others. Your WHY is within yourself. Look within. Look to your story and listen to the clues.

Summary:

  • Finding your WHY is a process of discovery.
  • Ask yourself, How have I consistently added value to others?
  • You won't find your WHY in a self-help book. Your WHY is found within yourself.

2) What are my emotions telling me?

Don't dismiss your emotions. Instead, ask yourself, "What are my emotions telling me?"

Great leaders pay attention to their feelings. They follow their instincts. Not as an alternative to rational thought and logic, but in a way that's complimentary.

You've already looked back and asked, "How does my story inform me?" Now, take some time to listen to your emotions. Avoid the temptation to discount them as an unhealthy selfish expression. Instead, embrace them for what they are - strong clues for why you exist on this planet.

I know emotions can be tricky. Sometimes, they can be hard to identify. In case you're struggling, here are three simple questions to get you started: 

  • What makes me cry? What breaks your heart or disturbs you? What motivates you to take action? What moves you to tears? For as long as I can remember, I've hated wasted potential. For me, there is nothing worse than the tragedy of a wasted life. It bothers me when people let fear, failure, and finances stand between them and their potential for positive influence. That's why my "WHY" is about helping individuals and organizations maximize theirs.
  • What makes me dance? What makes you happy? What puts a spring in your step? What brings you joy? For me, it's seeing people reach a level of performance they never dreamed possible. It's seeing an artist bless the world with their talents. It's seeing a leader transform their life, their family, and their world. What makes you truly happy? Identify this, and you're well on your way to finding your WHY.
  • About what do I dream? I know I said that your WHY isn't aspirational. But just ignore that for a moment and answer the question, "What do I dream about accomplishing with the rest of my life?" If you could accomplish anything, what would it be? What do I dream about?
    • I dream about leading the Pilot Fish team to generate $1,000,000.000.00 (1 billion) in value for our clients. 
    • I dream about empowering a generation of marketplace leaders to reposition the church for its next season of influence by launching 100,000 micro-churches.
    • I dream about an adventure on a five-acre ranch with my beautiful wife and five awesome kids here in Southern California.
    •  I dream about living out my WHY in a way that will make others say, "He helped me become more than I ever imagined possible." 

Dreams can be intimidating when you say them out loud. But they shouldn't feel impossible. Don't start from scratch when defining your dreams. And don't ignore your life's history. Instead, leverage what you've done to this point in life, listen to your intuition and choose a dream on which you can act. 

That's right. Act. Taking action is the very best way to clarify your why. By acting on your emotions you learn to interpret and manage them. By reflecting on your history, you position yourself to pivot to your next season of influence. 

So don't just dream. Do. Define your WHY and take steps to live it out on a daily basis.

Summary:

  • Learn to listen to your emotions. Great leaders trust their intuition.
  • Emotions are clues that when coupled with your history reveal your WHY. 
  • Don't just dream. Do. Live out your WHY on a daily basis. 

Know your Why. Find your Way.

Your WHY is the lifeblood of your leadership. Through the lens of your why much of your journey will come into focus. 

That sunny winter morning some five years ago was not easy. But I wouldn't trade it for the world. It was an important part of my leadership journey. And it was an essential part of refining my why.

Whatever your season, I hope you'll take a moment to refine your why. 

Because when you know your WHY, you can find your WAY.

Thanks for reading. Keep on leading.
Josh

P.S. Please share your why in the comments section below. Sharing your WHY will encourage others. Posting your WHY where others can see it will make you accountable. Take action - Share your WHY.

About the Author Josh Clark

You can be Richer. Richer in the way you live, work, play, and love. I’ve led one of the fastest growing churches in America and an Inc. 5,000 tech company. Now I help others create Richer in their own life, let’s connect for a Free Consultation.

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6 comments
Jana Buzbee says September 12, 2017

Josh, thank you for posting this! You really have me thinking today. With so many changes in our lives this past year, I need to reconsider my why. Thank you for the encouragement.

Reply
    Josh Clark says September 13, 2017

    Hey there, Jana, it’s great to hear from you. I noticed your move across the country earlier this year. It takes courage to make that move. Congratulations. I’ve found that each new season of uncertainty creates a new opportunity to refine my why. Sometimes the how and what of my why changes. Other times it does not. But with every iteration, I become more committed to my why. You’re an encouragement to me. Keep it up and please keep me posted.

    Reply
Charlie says September 28, 2017

Josh, this was fantastic! Keep it coming. It may be time for a refresh on my Lifeplan. What an invaluable tool for any leader to have at their fingertips. Essentially, an instructional manual on how to live YOUR best life.

Reply
    Josh Clark says October 16, 2017

    Charlie, Let’s complete your refresh soon. I have a couple openings left yet this year. I’ll reach out today!

    Reply
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