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How To Figure Out Your Why (and Why It Matters)

True happiness starts with defining your "why" in every aspect of your life. Here's how YOU can do it!

Have you ever been told to figure out your “why”? Were you clear on what that meant, why it was important, and how to do it?

I’ve most often heard this referenced in relation to work and entrepreneurship, but lately I’ve been realizing it applies to the rest of our lives as well.

Figuring out our “why” in areas like work, romance, friendship, hobbies, and personal possessions can help us get crystal clear on things that might otherwise take us years to figure out. I’d love to save that time, wouldn’t you?

Figuring out your “why” can seem a bit of a nebulous concept, but what it comes down to at its heart is paying attention.

Whether you talk things through with a life coach, do morning pages on what’s working and what’s not, or keeping a logbook of how you feel as you make various changes (or all of the above), the key is to cast a nonjudgmental gaze on each aspect of your life, one by one.

Not quite sure how this is important? Let’s have a look at how to figure out your why …


Knowing why you go to work every day, what it is that gets you through those doors and to your desk day in and day out, can not only help you work more efficiently, it could make you happier, too.

If your current position is a stepping stone on the way to a higher rung on the ladder, make sure you don’t get too comfy where you are, but don’t step on other people in your efforts to proceed swiftly.

On the other hand, if your family and friends are always asking when you’re getting a different, better job, but you’re honestly happy where you are, and your main reason for going to work each day is to get a paycheck so you can live a broad life outside of work, then stay true to your “why.”

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Being unclear on why you want to enter a relationship marks the beginning of a rocky path, or two, or three. If you’ve suffered abuse in the past or some other kind of trauma, your “why” could be that you want someone to heal you, to tend to your wounds.

It works in reverse, too: if you don’t want to enter a relationship after going through a rough situation, you might be nervous of history repeating itself.

Knowing your reasons for wanting to be in a relationship will help you find a partner who’s right for you, when you’re ready, not who you think you should want, on someone else’s schedule.


We all have different reasons for doing the things we love. If we get too far away from those reasons, we can start to lose interest in the hobby, and maybe even fall away from something altogether that has the potential to bring us so much joy.

If you enjoy reading fluffy contemporary novels to get your mind off your daily trials and tribulations, you might want to think twice about joining that book group that focuses on political memoirs. If you enjoy sewing your own clothes but sizing new patterns stresses you out, taking on commissions from friends for new wardrobes likely isn’t worth the money.

Your hobbies are yours and it’s essential for your happiness that you make time for them in your life. Read our guide on Embracing Your 5-9 and Making Time for Your Passions.


I think most of us have been on one end or the other of an uneven, disingenuous friendship. Friendships based on what the people involved can get out of it are a definite danger zone, especially if what you get out of it is a sense of fitting in.

Maybe you enjoyed the club scene a few years ago, but now you’re more into splitting a good bottle of wine and cozying up at home with a few friends. People who don’t respect that are going to be out of place in your new reality.

You don’t have to like the same things. Heck, you could still have friends who enjoy going clubbing, just make sure you have something else in common.

If your friendships aren’t based on genuine connections, and you don’t feel like you can be yourself, it’s time to reevaluate your friendship “why.”

Personal Possessions

Ah, clutter … it builds up on every available surface, works its way into each nook and cranny. The more we try to adhere to a one size fits all organizing system, the more things fall apart, even if they look promising at first.

This is one of my favorite areas in which to investigate my “why,” because it’s so immediately satisfying. The truth is, some of us do well with airy spaces and minimal possessions. Others feel happiest with a bit of cozy clutter, travel knickknacks, bookshelves upon bookshelves of well-read paperbacks. Both of these approaches, and all the ones in between, are completely valid.

We all need different systems to keep things organized, because we all have a different “why” when it comes to personal possessions. To read more into this, check out the book that changed my life (no exaggeration): Organizing From the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern.

Because nailing down your “why” is a wee bit tricky, it’s an easy thing to put off. Do yourself a favor and don’t do this.

Taking the time to figure out your “why” in each of these areas is not only helpful, I’d call it essential to living a balanced, genuine, healthy life. And don’t get stuck into thinking that the answers you come up with now need to be the same five years down the road.

Maybe your goal for being in a relationship right now is to have fun and try new things, whereas a few years from now you’ll be more interested in a long-term commitment. Nothing says you can’t change your mind! And in the meantime, you’ll have a shield against the expectations and guilt society tries to heap at your doorstep.

When it comes down to it, your “why” is about what’s right for you, right now. Pick one area of your life and start sorting things through today: you won’t regret it.

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Discussion: Have you figured out your “why” in different areas of your life? Has it helped you be more focused?


About the Author

Victoria Fry

Victoria is a writing coach who's a creative catalyst for burnt-out writers, helping them tell the stories jostling for room in their heart and mind. She also writes, devours books, loves to dance, and takes part in a weekly Star Wars tabletop game.