In life, it’s essential to understand your “why.”
Your why has to do with meaning and motivation. Why are you here? What is your purpose?
When we lose our why, we lose everything.
The Walking Dead
My wife and I are watching The Walking Dead. (For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s about the zombie apocalypse.) There is a storyline about an army guy named Abraham who was completely focused on getting a scientist from Houston to Washington DC, because the scientist had an idea for how to kill all the zombies. Abraham risked everything to get the scientist to DC, almost dying several times himself.
At some point on the journey (somewhere in Georgia), the scientist breaks down and admits he’s not really a scientist—he made up the whole story so the group would accept him, protect him, and keep him safe.
Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
Abraham is completely devastated. His mission, his purpose, everything he was risking his life for… no longer amounted to anything. It was all a lie. He had lost his why.
Viktor Frankl tells a story about a man he was with in a concentration camp during World War II. The man had a dream that they would be freed on a specific date. The man was confident and upbeat that their freedom was just a few short months away.
Here was the problem: As the date in the dream approached, freedom was nowhere to be found. On the date their freedom was supposed to happen (and didn’t), the man contracted a serious illness. He died the very next day. He had lost his why.
Clarify Your Why
Frankl said that he who knows his why can bear almost any how. I think he’s right. If we have a clear mission, purpose, and reason for living, we can withstand quite a lot. Human beings are remarkably resilient.
But the opposite is also true. When we lose our why, it is devastating. Life is drained of its joy, and we can lose our reason for living and moving forward.
It’s important to get clear on your why. It’s important to explore your values and figure out what makes life meaningful. Get clear on your values, and point your life in that direction. Let your values be the map that directs your steps. If you start to lose your grip on your why, reevaluate. You don’t have to keep the exact same why for your entire life. It can grow and change along with you. Just don’t lose it.
What is your why? What are the key values that instill your life with meaning and purpose? How well do your daily activities line up with your values?