5 questions you must ask to find your why, pursue your passion, and unleash your deepest motivations

We all crave meaning in our lives. We want our words and deeds to be part of a greater purpose. We want what we do to matter—to ourselves, to our friends, and to the world.

But it’s also easy to forget about the meaning and purpose behind our actions. To live life on the surface. To pursue superficial things for superficial reasons.

Somehow or another, it can be altogether too easy to lose our way and forget why we care.

This article is about finding that reason again, because that’s a big part of making change last. You have to deeply and truly care. It has to mean something to you. Not just on the surface, but deep down.

5 Essential Questions

1. Ask why five times.

You want to start running. You want to exercise regularly. You want to lose weight and feel great.

But why? Why is this goal important to you? Why does it matter?

A good exercise is to insert your goal and your reason into the following sentence:

I want to _______________ because _____________.

For example, I want to run a 10k because it will help me get into shape.

Then, insert the reason into the first part of the sentence and repeat the process over and over again. For example:

  • I want to get into shape because I don’t have enough energy to be productive at work.
  • I want to be productive at work because it’s important to provide for my family.
  • I want to provide for my family because being a great parent is rewarding.
  • I want to be an amazing parent because I believe it’s part of leading a good life.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Suddenly, your goal of running a race isn’t just about getting into shape. It’s about progressing in your career, providing for your family, and living a life you’re proud of.

Get beneath the surface. Keep asking why. Why does this matter? Why is this important? Why now?

The deeper you dig, the more you’ll learn about yourself and about what really matters to you.

And maybe that will end up being something entirely unrelated to exercise or physical activity. That’s okay. For a lot of people, exercise is just a stepping stone, a thing that gives them the energy and motivation they need to pursue other passions.

The point is to figure out what those are. Because maybe getting active is really all about being in the right headspace to write a YA novel, or running your own business, or having a bigger impact at work. Maybe it’s about spending more quality time with your family, or deepening your friendships, or going on more adventures.

Figure out why you want to move. Dig deep and discover what this is really all about.

Because unlike motivation, those things tend not to waver. They remain constant. They’re always there. And the more in touch you are with those motivations, the more consistently motivated you’ll feel on a daily basis.  

2. What gets you out of bed in the morning and what keeps you up at night? What excites you?

Focusing on what excites you is great life advice in general, but also applies to physical activity resolutions in particular.

If you’re not excited about what you’re doing, it’s going to be hard to stick with it. Eventually your enthusiasm will fade, your motivation will disappear, and your willpower will run out.

Instead of focusing on things you think you should do in 2018, ask yourself, what do you want to do? What would you be excited about doing? What is going to be fun and bring you joy?

Maybe instead of a new gym membership, it’s enrolling in a dance class. Maybe it’s running on trails, instead of treadmills. Whatever it is, make it something that excites you. That way you won’t be relying on willpower or motivation. You’ll be doing something you actually want to do.

3. What sentence will come to define your life?

We all want to do it all. At times, our hopes and dreams know no bounds.

But the problem with wanting to do it all is that we end up lacking focus and fail to set priorities.

The classic example, which Daniel Pink mentions in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, is US Presidents. Abraham Lincoln’s sentence: He preserved the union and freed the slaves. Franklin Roosevelt’s: He lifted the US out of the Great Depression and helped them win a world war. They focused on the one or two big things that would come to define their presidency.

The point for the rest of us is that focus is essential. If we try to do it all, we often end up accomplishing nothing.

So, think about what you want your life-defining sentence to be. What would you like to be remembered for?

Maybe it’s about raising two good kids and volunteering for a cause you care about. It could be about being an artist who creates beautiful things that make people’s lives a little more fun. It could be about starting a thriving business that solves a pressing problem.

This will help when it comes to your physical activity goals because the sentence becomes your motivation. No matter what you want your life to be about, no matter what you want to accomplish, leading an active life will help. To write a great sentence, you’ll need energy and optimism. You’ll need to maintain good mental and physical health. You’ll need to be active.

Try writing your sentence, and your reason for moving more will become obvious.

4. What will people say at your 80th birthday party?

This is a common personal development exercise because it once again helps you put your life into perspective and really figure out what you want to accomplish and how you want to be remembered.

So, go through the exercise. Really try to imagine your 80th birthday party. Who would be there? What would you be doing? What will you have accomplished? Create a picture of what you want this to look like.

Will you still be in good health? Will you have lived a life of action? Of setting goals and working toward them? Will you be someone who obviously lived life to the fullest? Who took advantage of every opportunity that came their way? Who relentlessly pursued a life of passion and purpose?

Because most likely, you’ll want the answer to be a resounding YES. You’ll want to be able to say that for eight full decades, you absolutely crushed it. You made the most of every day. You accomplished big things. You lived a life without regret.

Take a snapshot of that picture, remember that feeling, and then use it as fuel. Because it’s not just going to happen. You’re not just going to magically wake up at your 80th birthday party having accomplished all these things. That requires years of hard work and dedication and persistence. It’s on you to make it happen. To take charge and make change today.

5. Who do you want to be?

Often, it’s not reaching our goals that matters, but who we become in the process.

It’s not just finishing the marathon that matters, it’s the work you put in to get there. It’s about becoming more self-disciplined, dedicated and determined. It’s about becoming a person who makes a plan and sees it through.

Our actions define us. And being active is one of those actions.

It’s an action all of us must take. It’s an essential step on the path to becoming who we want to be.

In 2018, don’t just ask yourself what you want to do. Ask yourself, “Who do I want to become?”

Then, act accordingly.