“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”
A beautiful quote by Friedrich Nietzche that quite often doesn’t get the in-depth analysis that it deserves.
Something that so many of us tend to overlook when in reality turns out to be one of the most important actions.
I’m talking about finding our “why”, and not just the surface level reason that gets us to do something. Not at all.
If we want to achieve the things we truly want in life, the things that require a lot of time and effort, then, in my opinion, we must dive deep into the reason that motivated us to take an interest in them in the first place.
We must dig away at the surface layers, willing to be vulnerable with ourselves, eventually reaching the core reason that keeps attracting us towards certain pursuits.
Whether that is something creative, entrepreneurial, or something in between, it never fails to surprise me how people tend to constantly change, despite always looking to fulfill the same desire.
I became aware of this in my life a few years ago, while on one of my many entrepreneurial pursuits.
I was running an e-commerce business at the time, that after quite a lot of struggle, got to a point where it could be considered quite successful.
Despite reaching this point that I’d been struggling to get to for so long, the long-awaited “top of the mountain”, I was beyond surprised when I got there. Just not in the way you’d think.
What I thought would be the ultimate achievement of my life, giving me a long-lasting sense of meaning and fulfillment, ended up feeling nothing but.
I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Instead of meaning and fulfillment, I felt void and empty.
What I thought for so long would give me what I was after, gave me the exact opposite.
This threw me at light-speed to lowest I’ve ever felt in my life.
Before, I also wasn't feeling good about myself and where I was at, but at the very least I had hope that things would be better once all this struggle came to an end.
Now left without hope, feeling the exact same as before, I was forced to either settle for a life of dread or figure out what was going on.
I’m extremely grateful to be able to say that I chose the latter, and now sharing with you that I’m in a much better place, probably the best I've ever been, solely because of one decision that started it all.
The one to dive deep.
The Moment When It All Changed
While it may seem insignificant at first glance, once I realized the root “why” that was driving all of the important decisions of my life, everything changed.
The reason for this is that by understanding what I wanted out of life, and above all, why I was so drawn to it, then all of a sudden my life had meaning
Not because what I was doing necessarily changed, but because there was a bigger reason behind it. A purpose you could say.
This is the first realization I came to, one that came as quite of shock.
I realized that meaning is never in the task itself but in the view that the one performing it takes.
What is the most insignificant, dreadful habit for some, can be the driving force behind others.
And here comes the key distinction I want to make, the one between meaning and happiness.
Why Happiness Is Not The End Goal
While on first glance you may be tempted to reply with “happiness” to the question “What do you want out of life?”, I’m going to argue that, deep down, it isn’t happiness we’re after.
If you were to describe what happiness is you’d probably state things that would be present in your life that would then allow you to feel a mix of joy, easiness, relaxation, excitement, and other “good” emotions.
Looking at it like this, it would seem quite obvious that pretty much anyone would like to feel those emotions at all times. After all, the only reason we search for “happiness” is because we don’t feel as if we have it yet.
The problem with this is that, as human beings, we’re built to never be satisfied. Ever.
Whatever your wildest dreams right now, the things that sound too crazy to even think about, are not going to make you feel fully complete. For how bold that statement can seem, it is also quite easy to prove.
Just think back to a time when you felt like something was missing, and in your mind, you knew what the “thing” missing from your life was. Now, at some point, at least for one of those desires, you were able to attain it.
And I’m pretty sure that when you attained it, what you thought was the missing piece in your life, all those emotions appeared short while, but soon, you got used to it.
It became a normal part of your reality and soon enough you moved on to craving something else that was definitely going to give you this feeling.
Now, if those things weren’t it, do you really think that if they start increasing in size and quality, whether that’s money, fitness, the number of cars you won, the people you date, do you really think that they will fill the void inside? Or can you see the void just increasing as the goals follow along?
If you still think that I’m wrong and the next thing will definitely be it, then you can close the article right now. This isn’t for you.
However, if you understand that it is in this pursuit that we must find meaning, not in the prize at the end, then let me share with you how you can go about finding your “why”, allowing you to understand why it is you’re pursuing your current goal in the first place.
Time To Implement
First of all, you’re going to want to find something where you can take a write that is not connected to the internet: a notepad, a sheet of paper, a notebook, etc.
Once you chose your preferred medium to write, you’re going to focus on the most important goal in your life right now.
Whatever that is, write it at the top of the page in big bold letters.
Once this is set, you are going to write this question down:
Why do I want to (the goal you want to achieve)?
Below this question, you will write your answer.
Once that is done, you will ask another question, but this time to the answer you gave, continuously doing so until you find your core “why”:
Why do I want (the previous reply)?
So for example, let's imagine your goal was to lose 20 pounds in 6 months.
You would start by asking: Why do I want to lose 20 pounds in 6 months?
Imagining your reply was “Because I want to feel better about my body”, then the next question would be “Why do I want to feel better about my body?”
You would keep repeating this process until you’ve peeled all the layers in front of your true “why”, and trust me, you’ll know when you reach it.
However, to actually reach it, you must be willing to be vulnerable throughout the process, keeping it 100% honest with yourself and writing what you know is right, not what you think should be right.
Once you have your “why”, all of a sudden, those painful habits gain a whole different meaning.
Before You Go…
Before you start getting high hopes that once you find your “why” everything will suddenly be easy, let me stop you right there.
Things will still be hard. There will still be days when you’d prefer to stay in bed rather than go to the gym. Sorry to disappoint you, but there will still be all of the negative emotions from before.
Despite this, the big thing that will change is that you will know why you’re putting yourself through this. Why it is that you traded comfort for growth, short-term pleasure for long-term one.
And what you’ll realize is that a life of meaning is not a destination to be reached, but a path to be walked, every day.
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