As an entrepreneur or leader, the world is a playing field with endless ideas and opportunities. With so many choices on what you can do with your business and life, it is difficult to stay focused and aligned on what truly matters. One of the most important decisions you can make is clarifying your ‘why’, your intent for your work. This article will discuss how answering this one question can help anyone focus on what matters and produce better results.
What does it mean to be an entrepreneur in today’s world?
An entrepreneur is a doer who takes action.
No matter what industry, entrepreneurs are the ones who create change. They’re the ones with a vision for what is possible and then go out into the world to make it happen.
“It’s easier to invent the future than to predict it.” ― Alan Kay
With nearly endless opportunities in our modern world, it is a big challenge for entrepreneurs to stay focus on what matters most. After all, isn’t building new and exciting things what entrepreneurs strive for? The problem is that we get distracted by all the shiny and new opportunities that come our way and following through on the projects to make them over proportionally successful.
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” — Vince Lombardi Jr
As Seth Godin describes in his book “The Dip”, we often tend to overestimate the value of starting any project. We get excited about a new idea and want to start working on it right away. However, we underestimate how much time is required for us to be truly successful at something — we are either too impatient or naive when choosing which projects deserve our precious resources.
Becoming clear about the intention of your work allows you to see a clear path. It may sound like a simple question, but if you deeply think about it, it may well take some time to find a simple, yet powerful answer.
Crafting with intent is about understanding your motivation and understanding the change you seek to make. As Simon Sinek describes, it allows you to play the infinite game, rather than the finite game. Clarifying your why yields more perseverance, more focus, and consequently better results.
Only when we know our ‘why’ can we make decisions that align with this deep purpose over time instead of being swayed by every shiny new opportunity.
For example, Nike’s founder Phil Knight answered his why with ‘because I believe in sports.’ This helped him focus more on designing shoes for athletes rather than diversifying into other products.
“Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.” — Phil Knight, Shoe Dog
This is also why the company has been able to maintain its competitive edge for such a long period of time. It all started with his clarity on ‘why’ he was doing what he was doing, which helped him define and stay focused on Nike’s purpose during times when it had little to no revenue or product offerings.
Clarifying your why is a process that takes time. It’s not something you will come up straight away in its definite form. Rather, it’s something that will evolve as you see more of the world around us. However, there are good ways to start. The following steps help you find your why:
More often than not, our personal why is quite apparent if we take a look into the past. Your why is not something you invent, neither is it an aspirational identity. It’s more about a description of your purpose in business or life. So have a look into your past. Think of pivotal moments and emotional stories that shaped who you are today. This will give you a great set of ideas to start from.
Once you have a good stack of stories to work with, start thinking about the recurring themes that keep popping up. If there’s one theme underlying all your stories it can be an indication of where you want to go in life or business.
The next step is to draft a simple statement that captures your why. As you write it down, make sure it aligns with the reasons for which you do what you do and serves as an actionable compass moving forward.
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” — Stephen Covey
As you’ve seen, understanding the ‘why’ helps you stay on track in your journey and allows you to see a clear path. It also yields better results, as it inspires more perseverance and focus.
Once you’ve clarified why it is that you do what you do, create an action plan for how to make this purpose come alive day after day with small, incremental steps.
As you keep taking (and sharing) stories that demonstrate your why, it will get stronger and clearer over time. Clarifying the ‘why’ reveals a clear path towards better results in business or life, so take some time to think about it today.