how to find your inner compass: your why
Updated: May 26, 2019
We often struggle to understand why we don't like what we are living, and we find ourselves wondering around looking for answers.
It may be the job we are stuck in, it may be toxic relationships we hang on to, it may be living in a place we don't belong to, it may be being overcommitted to so many things that we lose touch with what really matters to us. When we are in a constant daily grind without knowing the reason we run for, we realize we must be doing something wrong! Can you imagine yourself as part of a jungle expedition, working your back off from morning to late night, chopping woods and conquering new terrains… and then figuring out that ‘fu## - it’s the wrong jungle!’. I borrowed this anecdote from the (highly recommended) book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’.
What is it that makes choosing what is right for us so hard? The real challenge is that is not about the what, but is much more about the purpose why we do things. The ‘how’ and the ‘what’ come later. If you figure out your inner why, you uncover your inner compass. This is what helps you be true to yourself, make decisions right for you, be understood by others. I’ll share a personal example: I used to find myself in profound self-doubt especially when outside factors were going against my decisions. If you chose to live an unconventional path I am sure you have felt the same when social pressure and set rules say you should be something else from what you are. I once saw this TED talk by Simon Sinek, explaining that importance of figuring out the why to inspire people to live, act and communicate aligned with their inner values. I did not quite realise the potential of this, until one day after I did a performance live, one person walked to me and told me the exposure to my music and my work inspired in them to have a new perspective about life.
I felt overwhelmed, but deeply fulfilled and connected with my inner self. I could not say much right then on the spot, but I started thinking about what moved that person... I spent days trying to understand what is it that deeply drives me and all the things that I do.
It became very clear the common thread was my why: I live to help others connect and take actions toward their paths so that people can feel fulfilled and create the life they want while bringing value to others.
The impact this brought to my life is massive. Just by shedding clarity on my why, my source of confidence immediately shifted toward my inner self, as opposite to being linked to external validation. Whenever I feel in doubt, I can now check if what I do is in line with the single most important measure - my why. And it goes much beyond that, as you become clear about what you stand for, your priorities also become clearer and your decisions easier to make. Life stops feeling a sea storm that takes your boat to random shores, and rather it's an ocean full of opportunities and you are the captain driving your own ship. If you articulate clearly your why, you are understood in a much deeper way and pretty soon you start attracting the other people who believe what you believe. If this is something that can help you, here I share an exercise below that has helped me think through it.
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'The Why' Ted Talk by Simon Sinek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4&t=2s
Start With Why book by Simon Sinek: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Start-Why-Leaders-Inspire-Everyone/dp/B01153JAQU
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/147112939X/
Find Your Why by David Mead, Peter Docker, Simon Sinek: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Find-Your-Why-Practical-Discovering/dp/0143111728
Exercise to start finding your why (updated as 20181201): below
NB: If you struggle to find or describe anything, don’t worry just go for what you feel, there is no restriction or requirement, even if you write 5 half sentences this will already shed a lot of clarity.
1. Get a piece of paper or notebook
2. In column on the left hand side, Write the top 10 (or more) things that you love doing that come to mind
3. Reread the list and pick the top 5 for which you feel a natural emotional response without thinking too much
4. Think about a moment when you lived each of these 5 and note what what made them so enjoyable for you. For example was is about connecting with people? Was it about helping someone else, was it about cracking a hard problem? Was it about you growing? Was it about getting into your state of flow?
5. Relive in your mind these emotions in your mind. Write the elements that resonate the most and try to describe what is the big common purpose among your actions? You may have felt shivers as you are getting closer to your inner drive. Don’t think too much just write whatever you feel
6. Think about your purpose and describe it in a way that can be simply explained to a stranger you just met
Congratulations! You got your why in front of you.
In the future you will shape and refine this. What I figured out for me is that The Why is consistent over time but the way you articulate it gets better and better. The clearer you make it over time the better you become at making decisions in your life that are in line with this, explaining it to others and the more confidence you auto-generate from within. It’s not a one off exercise and it requires practice and reviews over and over. There are days I decide to sit down with myself, rethink and rewrite it. Then I write down everything I am committed to and figure out what needs to be cut out as not in line with my why. And as I realign myself to my why I get back to my path and enjoy life again much more.
Do you feel like your purpose is nebulous and what you do is not exciting? It may be time for you to find your why and reshuffle the cards in your life!
If you need to see an example for me it would go like this:
1. Got Evernote open
2. Wrote my top 20: writing music, playing live set, coaching people to get unstuck with what they do, playing DJ sets, running a record label, helping entrepreneurs and large companies work together, writing to share about stuff I got stuck with that can help others, helping startups find options to grow their business, helping friends make hard life decisions, practicing and playing Muay Thai, going out with close friends and speaking about ideas and businesses that make the world better, helping investors find companies to support, re-framing a situation to help someone getting unstuck, having a challenging conversation with a stranger, seeing inspiring speeches, reading a book that inspires me and sharing with others what I've learned, negotiating a win-win deal, starting a project with a friend whom I like to work with, finding win-win-win arrangements where everyone gets value which is higher than what they would get without, sharing personal fuck ups and learnings with others to hopefully help them get past their hurdles
3. Picked the 5 That resonate the most:
1) Playing long live set for people dancing with me
2) Creating win win deals
3) Helping people get unstuck
4) Writing and sharing with others fuck up and learnings
5) Running a label that promotes connection between people through music
4. Thought about related moments:
1) Judgement Hall party in London in August 17. When I started thinking about my why after playing live 2 hours and feeling deeply connected with everyone there. When someone came to me and said they got inspired by what I did I realised that is because I was completely aligned with myself and able to convey that to others
2) Bringing a large investor to the founder of one of my favourite startups and learning more in that one hour than in the 6 months before. It stayed with me that I had brought value to these people and created a win-win-win situation where everyone was receiving and contributing value
3) Having a conversation with my co-founder about unhappiness while things seem to be going perfectly and helping her to reframing her thoughts to what matters. Figured out that the connection with people and support I can give them is a very important part of my life and is valuable for others as well
4) Sharing a very personal emotion about challenges and unhappiness on social media and being told from a person that he was inspired by this post and saved it in his folder of important life notes. This touched me and reminded myself that every shitty thing I can go through is completely worth if with my actions only I can inspire at least one person to do something positive for themselves
5) Having hosted 100+ people to an 'experience' to tell them a story that inspired our record and knowing that two of them created an entire illustration artwork inspired by that story. This brought to my mind the emotional importance of sharing experiences with others and being exposed to inspiring arts is joyful and creates a long lasting impact
5. I got goosebumps and felt strong warm waves while thinking and writing about this. I felt positive energy that reminded me that I'm happy with my life. What struck with me is that I am in the game to create connections between people, to try inspire others to take actions that help them in their purposes, to continuously grow personally and to enjoy life with others
6. I got to my why: I believe the world can be a place where everyone embraces their own potential and lives having fun while creating value for others. I live to connect and help others taking actions toward their paths, while growing personally myself