When was the last time you asked yourself why you do what you do? I can cram my day with lots of tasks, and on good days I accomplish them all. But if at the end of the day I have lots “done”, and I’m no clearer on why I’ve done it, it creates a certain flavor of angst and confusion.
I’ve realized that these existential crises tend to rear their heads when I’m out of touch with my story—the WHY behind all the busy-ness. Simon Sinek perhaps single-handedly challenged an entire generation of TED viewers to “start with why”. His talk still resonates almost 10 years later.
Story goes beyond marketing
In marketing speak, your story helps you define your unique sales proposition, your key differentiators, your brand positioning, etc. But what I’m coming to understand in a very visceral way is that understanding your story is the key factor in defining your purpose and what you’re going to do to act on it.
I ran a story workshop for artists several years ago. I taught them about story structure, the science behind story, and how it can help their sales. My pitch went well, and they were all on board. They knew they “needed a good story” to grow their business. But the most interesting thing that happened that night was when I asked the question, “What happened to you that you now do what you do?”
With this simple question I was inviting them to uncover their story. And it became clear after asking that the vast majority of the people in the room had never been asked that question. They had never asked it of themselves either.
It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of business, but we can’t forget to keep asking ourselves the important questions to keep us motivated, honest, and inspired for the marathon of hard work that continues to unfurl in front of us everyday.
Our story is our biggest motivator
I used to think I knew my story. “It’s just a natural next step from all the other things I used to do!” But that’s not a story. That’s a cop out. That sounds like my life is driving me, not the other way around.
So I started asking myself, why am I so concerned with helping people communicate what matters to them? Why is it so important for me that people connect? The answer that came was hard to accept because it’s a painful story.
Before when I tried to share this story with others, I struggled to finish for the giant lump that formed in my throat. But I’ve told it enough times now that it’s not so emotionally charged. When your story comes with pain, it takes time to be able to tell it without the emotion taking you over.
By connecting with our experience, we feel more clear on our purpose and more motivated to move the big stones in our days.
So what happened to you that you now do what you do? This is not just a question that will help you in marketing your business or yourself; it’s a question that will help you understand your life’s purpose.