By Alvalyn Lundgren
You need to identify what’s at stake.
I often reflect on how blessed I am to work the way I’ve always wanted to — independently, and why I do what I do as a creative entrepreneur. I confess, I think about the why a lot.
Notice I said think instead of wonder why. I’ve moved way past the question, “Why am I doing this?” I know why, and rather than trying to figure that out, I simply need to remind myself of it!
When we feel validated in what we’re doing: a client praises our work, a project turns out successfully, a good client recommends use to another, we see the good results of what we’re doing. In those cases, the Why appears obvious.
It’s in the other times – we lose a client, we don’t see hoped-for results, we’re given a poor evaluation, we’re just not having fun – that knowing Why becomes vital. In spite of setbacks, we need to return to that in order to keep going.
What is the Why?
Your Why is that deep-down, personal motivation for what you do.
The thing I’ve learned and will pass on to you is this: Until you identify your Whys, you won’t be able to get clear about your Whats and Hows.
For example, my Whys include freedom. Freedom is one of my primary motivators, both professionally and personally. Freedom – the ability to do the work I want to do and choose who I work with, to set my own schedules, to go where I want to when I want to, to integrate and balance work and family life — is a big reason I chose to be self-employed. I was a salaried employee several times during my school years, but it just didn’t fit. There were times since launching my freelance business when I seriously considered returning to a salaried position, but I kept coming back to the freedom issue. That Why, among others, has kept me moving forward and on track.
Until you identify your Whys, you won’t be able to get clear
about your Whats and Hows.
Why is finding your Why important?
If you don’t discover your Why, your chances of success are slim. Any worthy goal will meet with resistance. If you have lofty goals for your life (hopefully you do), you will go against the tide along the way. You’ll experience engine trouble, flat tires, detours and traffic jams (using the Road Trip vernacular). You might even crash. The only motivator you will have for pushing through the roadblocks is your Why.
What is that destination you need to get to? Why does it matter?
What is at stake – for you and those connected to you – if you do not accomplish your goals? Many who set solid, realistic goals don’t achieve them. Why? They are not motivated by their Why.
The secret of the Why is that it is personal to you. It’s not about being helpful to others, although that should be a result. Your Why is all about what’s in it for you. If you don’t have a stake in it, it’s not your Why.
For each of your goals and destinations, there exists a Why. You don’t need to fabricate it because it already exists. You simply need to discover it.
How to find your Why: 3 Action Steps You Can Do This Week
Set aside the better part of an hour in the next week to do the following. Be sure you’re writing, doodling or drawing in some form and not just thinking.
1. Write down 3 specific goals you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. Be specific, so that they’re measurable (you will know when you’ve accomplished them), and include a due date. For example:
Over the next 12 months, I will read 12 books about business and marketing.
I will send one marketing email per month to 25 prospective clients for the next 12 months.
In the next 60 days, I will invite 5 entrepreneurs to join me for coffee so that I can pick their brains.
Be sure you make your goals relevant to you.
2. For each goal, identify and list 3-5 personal motivations.(Why does this matter? Why is it important to me? What is at stake?”
You’re not listing tasks here. Your focus is on the Whys. For example:
Goal: In the next 60 days, I will invite 5 entrepreneurs to join me for coffee so that I can pick their brains.
– Because I need to get to know people who have successful businesses because I want to learn how to build a successful business so that I can quit my job.
– Because I need to make professional connections who will be good resources for new business referrals, because I want to expand my client base and get better clients so that I don’t have to chase payments.
– Because I want to brainstorm my ideas with people I trust who are not in my field, because I don’t know on my own if there’s a market for my ideas, and I want my ideas to create success for me because I need to earn money to pay down my student loan debt.
If you cannot think of at least 3 personal motivations for each of your specific goals, carefully consider if it is indeed the right goal. Your reasons should be both emotionally and intellectually compelling.
You can do this exercise for any goal, personal or business.
3. Prioritize the motivations from most to least important.
Now, put your list in an easily accessible place so that you can review it weekly.
That’s it. It’s pretty simple.
There is much at stake if you don’t plan your steps and set your goals. You will not take those steps without being motivated to do so. As you take those steps, you will experience resistance. Remembering your motivations – your Whys – will propel you forward in spite of opposition.
Alvalyn Lundgren is the founder and design director at Alvalyn Creative, an independent practice near Thousand Oaks, California. She creates visual branding, publications and books for business, entrepreneurs and authors. She is the creator of Freelance Road Trip — a business roadmap program for creative freelancers. Contact her for your visual branding, graphic and digital design needs. Join her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and subscribe to her free monthly newsletter.